The Evergreen Lilac


It was a pretty well-known fact on Grand Street that June’s house had the prettiest lilac bush anywhere.

In May, its boughs were practically crushed beneath the weight of enormous, fragrant, purple blooms.  Even in summers with no rain, while the neighbours’ own lilacs were reduced to shriveled brown ash under the scorching Missouri sun, our lilac tree flourished.  It remained green all winter.  Our lilac tree was something of a neighborhood mystery.

From the time I was about 10 up until leaving school, my family lived in a huge, gray-shingled Victorian farmhouse.  It occupied about a quarter acre of lawn and was set well back from the road, being the original farmhouse in the area.  Over time, and as the city expanded, it had become gradually surrounded by little McHouses, lined up like so many pastel matchboxes along the streets on the north side of town.

In this shabby, timber-frame house with its massive, putty-less, floor-to-ceiling windows and lath-and-plaster walls perfectly devoid of insulation, lived my mum, stepdad, and 5 of us girls ranging in ages from kindergarten to high school senior; the eldest, our brother, moved out and joined the military.  With 5 little sisters, I can’t say I blame him for leaving as soon as was legally possible.

Our house had no shortage of bedrooms; It had, however, but a single bathroom.

Dad used to be up at the crack of dawn, well before the sun, even on days when he did not work as a route salesman for Pepsi.  The reason was simple:  It would be the one and only time in the course of the day he would have free access to the bathroom.

bathroom makeup

I only wish our bathroom had been this tidy…

Now, girls, all girls, are notorious bathroom hogs.  When we weren’t bathing, brushing or primping (which, by the way, was pretty much all the time), we were seeing to our multitudinous and time consuming physical needs.

Dad often joked he should have bought stock in Tampax.  It is a bitter shame we were not the sort of family who ever had money for investing, because, in the course of raising all 5 of us girls to adulthood, I am sure he would have turned a tidy profit.  If it had strings or wings, chances were pretty good we had a stockpile of it in the bathroom closet; yet another reason our family never had money to invest.

Poor Dad.  He didn’t stand a chance with us lot.  How he survived the hormones and moods and catfights, I shall never know.  The man had the patience of Job.

Now, with all of us and a single bathroom, I am sure you can imagine the logistical nightmare we faced each and every day.  Let’s face it:  When you gotta go, well… you GOTTA GO!  We girls had learned from a pretty early age that if we were shy about using the bathroom, we were just going to have to get over it.  And that is because, as often as not, we would probably not be IN the bathroom when we went.

Which explains our well-watered, evergreen lilac tree.

Mystery solved.

Mother Hen

Photo credits

  • Lilacs: Shutterstock
  • Makeup:

Originally posted on Mother Hen Diaries 19 March 2014

© motherhendiaries 2014 all rights reserved

Categories: memoirs

Tagged as: , , , , , ,

12 replies »

  1. That phrase, “Gotta go,” led Thomas Crapper to invent the first indoor toilet. He kept waking up to this wife singing “Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go”. For some reason, the song was always sung to the tune of the “William Tell Overture”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As I opened this post, all I could see was the photograph and your opening lines. And Don’s remarks about Crapper. And I thought now how are we going to bridge this apparent chasm? Yup, one bathroom did the trick.


  3. Talk about a surprise ending…that one came full circle. I had gotten so caught up in the strings and wings I forgot all about that poor lilac tree. Lucky it was still lilac (and not yellow, ha, ha.)


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