“I even flushed the toilet just for you!”

When I was little, we had a house designed with the kitchen and living space downstairs on the main floor and upstairs, on the top floor, we had the bedrooms and the bathroom. It was a standard 70’s house: square, functional, unimaginative, home. The only problem with this design was that, for a little one like me, that meant glasses of water were far, far away. To resolve this, I was given a small stainless steel cup that I perched on the side of the bathroom sink. That way if I were upstairs and thirsty, I could just have my needed glass of water and get on with my world.

My mother had given me one helpful tip that I used in warm weather: if you want a colder glass of water, flush the toilet first. It made sense so when I wanted a cool glass of water to wet my whistle, I flushed the toilet.

(My world, by the way, will not surprise you. It’s entirely unrelated to this post, but entirely related to this blog. My sister’s old typewriter had been left upstairs and I had found it, dragged it from obscurity, and spent most of my summers from the age of eight years old on perched on the edge of my bed with the typewriter balanced dangerously on the sewing table in my room. I typed up a storm, writing plays that I fully envisioned being acted out by my friends, and stories with little girls cast as the central character. My love of writing blossomed young.)

One day, I came home from school to find my mother and my big sister in my room. My sister was twenty years older than I was, so her visits were significant as I was so young. My mom and sister had taken it upon themselves to clean my room while I was at school. It was a nice touch. I hated cleaning and preferred to read or sit at the typewriter. (Guess some things never change.) With both of them seated on a bench beneath my window, my sister asked me if I could bring her a glass of water.

I absolutely could. I rushed off to the bathroom to get my little metal cup. I flushed the toilet – an extra touch just for my sister to ensure she got the coldest water possible – and filled the cup from the tap after letting it run for a moment. Back to the bedroom I went, carrying the cold glass of water with me. I handed it over and as she drank deeply, I proudly announced:

“I even flushed the toilet just for you!”

My sister paused, the water poised in mid-air, and she had an appalled look on her face. I was dismayed and, frankly, a little offended. I had flushed the toilet for her, a caring gesture on my part, and here she was, completely lacking in gratitude. I stood there a little miffed and wondering why this declaration had failed to elicit the anticipated response.

My mother, on the other hand, was in stitches, laughing so hard she couldn’t speak. Her sides shook as she tried her best to make words of explanation come out of her throat, but all she was able to splutter out was choked laughter. My sister was still frozen with eyes wide, and I was wooden with the duel offence of my sister’s lack of appreciation and my mother’s choking laughter.

Finally, my mother was able to shed some light on the situation. “Charlotte flushes the toilet to make the water in the tap run colder,” Mom said.

My sister sighed with relief. “Oh thank God,” she said, finally enlightening me to the situation. “I thought she had dipped it out of the toilet.”

Well, honest to goodness. If the missing “thank you” had offended me, this moved me to absolute shock. She thought I had dipped a cup in the toilet? The nerve! I left the room in a huff, the sound of my mother bursting into gales of laughter again ringing in my bedroom.

Forty years later, I can still hear my mother laughing until her sides hurt. And forty years later, I still flush the toilet to make the water in the bathroom colder.

And you can get your own water if you’re in my house. I don’t flush for anyone’s water any more.

 

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