pooped our pants, right?
In Arkansas, when I was about 6 or 7 we lived on a ranch. There was a river close by and my brother and I would spend hours in the rushing rapids looking for water creatures under the rocks. We were living in a ranch house because the family that lived there previously needed someone to house sit for several months, so my parents became ranch hands by default and took up the unfamiliar role for almost a year. Gorgeous setting, 2 story house, and peace. There was a herd of cows that my dad had to go out and feed regularly. They were the Charolais breed, unique and epic to my little 7-year-old self. That time of my life was a carefree time. My parents were unencumbered by the many of the stressors of our life up until that point. They were taking care of the land and home of someone else. We were all freed by the landscape and a new place to call home.
This is also where my mom screamed and killed a baby rattler that was threatening to bite one of us as we were picking up walnuts off the ground. Fireflies, or lightnin’ bugs as we called them, came as a welcome remembrance of dusk every summer evening. Crickets chirped nightly prompting the day’s end. The pace we lived in that house was what we all craved. It was a respite from the change we had experienced in the years before moving from house to house and to a new state.
This house was also where I pooped my pants. (We’ve all done this, right? Pooped our pants?) I was too busy washing the van to stop and run in the house to take care of my business, and before I knew it, it was too late. Too late. This happened in front of my family, but I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t bring myself to even tell anyone what happened. Shame. I was WAY too old to poop my pants (age 7)!
Turns out, fast forward to when my daughter, Middle, was about 8. Picture this: Long road trip, I’m driving and just want to keep going for another 50 miles or so to our next destination down the California Coast. This was a few years ago when we were on summer vacation on what I named The Lighthouse Tour because we visited as many Lighthouses as we could along the coast. Anyway, Middle, said, “Mom, I’ve got to go to the bathroom!” Me, (in my head thought, “Uh yeah, well, you have to hold it.” MIStake.) Maybe this is just our family, but everyone gets a little more free with their gassy parts on the long road trips, and as Steve would say, “Better out than in.” (Uh, really? C’mon hun. This is 50 more miles we’re talkin’ about.) So, I kept on driving as the woman-on-a-mission driver that I am. Then frequent gassy reminders and “Mom, I’ve got to go!” and a few more miles pass. Eventually, there was another kind of pass. The kind that made the whole rental SUV wreak to high heaven. “Middle, WHAT HAPPENED?”
“I TOLD YOU, MOM! I HAD TO GO!”
Yup. My Middle, unapologetically did what no human over 2 should ever do— she pooped her pants in the rental car SUV seat.
That was my cue to pull that sucker over and sequester her and begin an EPIC clean up session. We got to the nearest small town gas station with the Rastafarian family of four panhandling out front. I grabbed the baby wipes pack of 200 and rushed her into the bathroom.
Me: “Middle, what were you thinking!”
Middle: “Mom, I TOLD YOU I HAD TO GO!”
Needless to say the clean up session included a wardrobe change and use of 100 of the 200 wipes. All of the clothes went promptly in the trash.
What I learned from my Middle** that day, comparing my own pants-pooping-experience, was, some people innately blame themselves and experience shame (Me) and others (Middle) just roll with it and move on. She wasn’t sorry. She was matter of fact and practical about it. She wasn’t embarrassed either. To this day, she’ll still say, “I HAD TO GO!” She isn’t anything like me when it comes to shame. I love that. I love her. Poopy pants and all. (She giggled without shame when I read this to her.)
About 10 years ago, there was an incident that has been archived in my teaching history called The Phantom Pooper. At the end of the school day, all of the students had been sitting in a circle during the end-of-day class meeting. As we all lined up to ready ourselves to walk out the door, a couple of the girls looked down at the floor and pointed to what I hoped was a tootsie roll, (but it wasn’t) and I looked in horror and quickly shuffled all the students out of the classroom not wanting to draw more attention to the unwanted specimen on the floor. I spent 20 minutes or so out at the front of the school dismissing all my students to go home with their parents. Then I walked back into the room (forgetting about the specimen) and in my haste, stepped.on.the.phantom.poop. Not kidding. I loved those shoes I was wearing at the time… hip tan slip-ons. I slipped them off strategically and placed them in a plastic bag, all the while thinking, “Who is the Phantom Pooper?” Tracing back in my memory to any student who was sitting in that spot on the carpet. To this day, I never figured out who it was. Needless to say, I walked back to my car barefoot that day. The Phantom Pooper is still out there, somewhere. Who does that? How? Why? I’ll never know. This is one of the joys of teaching, mysteries that can never be solved. (I’ll find who you are. I’m watchin’ for you Phantom Pooper.)
Since we’re on the topic, I think I’ve shared before that I lived in a trailer home for most of my 6 years in Texas. The only time I ever heard my mom curse, was in my Texas years in that trailer. There were 2 bathrooms and the one next to my room stopped working for a very long time. We weren’t supposed to use it. But occasionally someone would forget, and my mom would pour in more water and eventually everything would go down to toilet heaven or hell. But one time, it overflowed, and my mom, my sweet-lovely-red-headed-mom did what red-heads are known for…she became wild-eyed and furious because that toilet was getting the better of her. (I think steam came out of her ears.) It won that day. She was reduced to uttering words she would never normally use. I was the wide-eyed witness. (Turns out, I learned later, there are people called plumbers that come out and fix toilets for people.) This was never an option because that would mean the big bucks, which we didn’t have, so she ‘fixed it’ herself.
Trailer homes are tornado magnets and they are FREAKIN’ hot as hell when it’s 110 degrees outside. This is where I learned about the necessity of using duct tape. (For many years, I thought it was called duck tape.) Our air conditioning duct would frequently get detached from the house and my dad would turn into the dad from A Christmas Story, the scene where he cusses at the furnace. You know what I’m talking about, right? Yeah, my dad was like that when he had to go out and fix the duct with tape, minus the cursing. Calling an A/C guy was not in the budget, so it was all about putting more tape on and hoping for the best.
So what do you do when you poop your pants, or the toilet overflows, or the duct tape doesn’t work? Most of the time, I blame myself. Hopefully you cope better than me.
I’m gradually learning to roll with it. I’m learning to accept that sometimes you’ve just got to ‘sit in the shit’, as I call it. You don’t have to sit there for long, but sometimes, especially when other people are experiencing shit in their lives, you sit with them, clean them up when they’re ready, and throw away everything that reminded you of that horrible event.
So there you go. We’ve all pooped our pants, right? Figuratively or literally. I’ve done both. Like Bill Murray said in this video, “I just want to be here. I’d like to see how long I can be really here. Really alive.” And later in the excerpt, “This is your life. This is the only one you’ve got.” What he’s saying is, he wants to be present, in the moment, and fully alive everyday. Part of being alive is connecting through the good and the bad, because in this life, we’ve got both. Can I get an Amen?
I know you’d do the same for me.
Even though I don’t know you Bill Murray, I really like you.
**By the way, this is Middle-approved. After reading it, she told me to ‘stick with it’ referring to writing my blog. “Mom, you do this every week? Poop is like a metaphor, right?” That’s my girl. Smart and resilient.
Until next week. Love you loves.