When I was five, my dad was stationed with the U.S. Navy on Guam, where we lived in a Quonset hut with
two geckos that scurried up the wall. My brother Blake was a year and a half younger than I, and my brother Doug was born on Guam.
Like other kids, we learned to do chores. Blake and I set the table, dried dishes, and made our beds, while my mom had her hands full with little Doug and the never-ending laundry. In the 1950s, everyone used single-thickness cloth diapers, about 30”x30”, that were folded small to fit a newborn and bigger as the baby grew. The diapers dried quickly on the clothes line or when hung out a car window on a drive around the island. When a diaper was soiled, my mom rinsed it in the toilet and dropped it into a pail of sudsy water on the back porch to soak before laundering.
One day when my mom sent me out with a used diaper, I managed to tumble into the pail. There I was—up to my armpits in water that reeked of ammonia, my rear end stuck. To make matters worse, I knocked the pail over in the process of climbing out, spilling the water all over the porch. My clothes were soaked. Blake and I howled.
My mom, who came out to see what happened, laughed, too, and then got the mop. “Before you change clothes, you’ll have to clean up the mess.”
“But Mom,” I said, putting on a hurt face and trying to keep from laughing, “I can’t—it’s too hard.”
“Sure you can.”
And I did, despite my fake tears, right after she snapped this photo for my baby book.
*Reprinted from the January 2011 Issue of Northwest Prime Time, Scene from Childhood