This isn't a story from the book, but it could be...
Actually, it's a memory triggered by a question asked by an assistant of Dr. Chabaud, who is doing research on the effects of being raised in a hoarded home on adult children of hoarders. The question: what was one of the worst things I remember about living in my hoarded childhood home?
It was a hard question to answer. As you have seen in previous posts, there are a lot of unpleasant memories. My father's abusiveness to us kids, especially my brother, trumps them all, but that has more to do with my father himself and isn't necessarily related to his hoarding.
The following story is another one of those bad memories. It isn't about something life-threatening or horrifying, just a nasty, disgusting glimpse into what our everyday life in the hoard was like. I call it:
Please Don't Squeeze the Charmin(R) copyright 2011 Barbara Allen
Something is wrong with the plumbing in our upstairs bathroom. No water seems to be making its way there. And since no one is allowed inside our house, we know that no plumber will be arriving any time soon, if ever, to address the problem.
This is the bathroom, of course, with the tub. It is also the bathroom where three unhousebroken puppies live. They don't get along with the unhousebroken adult dogs who live in the kitchen, so my father has decided the upstairs bathroom is the best place to put them. The puppies have chewed the vinyl floor down to the splintered wood and try to climb into the tub with us when we are taking a bath, so it isn't the most pleasant of bathing experiences. We are only allowed to bathe once a week as it is, but it looks like now even that inadequate opportunity will be eliminated.
There is another bathroom downstairs, near the family room. It doesn't have a tub or shower, only a toilet and a tiny utility sink. The floor of this room is covered, as are most of the rooms in our house, with layers of newspapers. Here, however, there seems to be some kind of leak from somewhere; the newspapers are always so wet and mushy they are almost like papier mache, but in a more soupy form. They feel so slimy and disgusting beneath our feet that Cindy and I never go in there barefoot. If we are using the bathroom to take our "bath," (otherwise known as sponging ourselves from head to toe at the utility sink), we wear flip-flops so we can wash our feet, too, and not worry about setting our newly-cleansed toes down onto that gray goo.
Two adults and six kids sharing one small bathroom isn't such a great situation, in my opinion. We are all doing a lot of waiting; waiting accompanied by impatient remarks like "hey, don't take all day in there," and sometimes even frantic pounding on the door.
But worse than the waiting, worse than the pounding, is the toilet paper issue. With all those people using one bathroom, we always run out.
Ours is not a house where things are replaced promptly.
"No toilet paper!" I announce emphatically to my mother and father, the purchasers of this item, the first time this occurs. "Not a sheet left!"
I might as well have said nothing. Days go by, but the metal roll-holder remains empty. Draped over it is a grayish piece of cloth, a rag. This is apparently what all eight of us are supposed to use until one of my parents decides they should finally go to the store and get actual toilet paper.
Well, that's fine for everyone else, if that's what they want to do. As for me, I'm not touching that rag.
I've perfected the drip-dry method.