As I mentioned in an earlier post, I wasn't able to take showers while living in my uncle's house. There was a bathroom on the top floor, where the kids' bedrooms were located, but the shower head had been removed and therefore the tub was only usable for baths. Even now, I don't mind an occasional long soak, but I'm simply not -- now or then -- the kind of person who enjoys a daily bath.
Before moving there, I'd showered every night -- long and hard -- often using up all the hot water. Then suddenly that pleasure was taken away from me, and I was extremely unhappy. So I stopped bathing. I'd run water in the tub, then sit on the toilet reading a book for 30 minutes or so; I'd then put on my nightgown, go downstairs and proclaim that, yes, I HAD taken a bath.
My uncle's wife was no fool and she rarely believed me. The first time I tried to pull this off, she stuck her hand up inside my nightgown to see if my skin was damp. I was shocked and, I believe, said something snarkily inappropriate. Other times, she would simply walk into the bathroom, unannounced, to see if I was actually in the tub. The times that I WAS in the tub, I'd make a similarly snarky comment.
While I understood that she wanted me to bathe, I didn't believe her methods were appropriate. I also didn't believe that it was fair that I was being forced to do something that no one else was required to do. (And if they'd simply allowed me to shower, it wouldn't have been an issue. Really.)
My uncle regularly threatened to cut my hair if I didn't keep it clean. My hair, strawberry blonde and hanging to the middle of my back, was my one good feature, and I angrily warned him that he'd better not touch it. Fortunately, he never did.
Baths, and my lack of cleanliness would be ongoing issues for quite a while.
Sometime prior to moving in with him, my uncle had given an idea to artist, Ernie Bushmiller, who drew the "Nancy" comic strips. Bushmiller used the idea and sent the original artwork, autographed, to my uncle. He had it framed and displayed it proudly.
For my 11th birthday, the first in my uncle's house, I received a gift that was long, narrow, and fragile. When I opened it, I found a framed, autographed, Nancy comic strip of my own. In the first frame, Nancy is sitting in the bathtub, and says "I hate taking baths." The second frame adds "Every day is too much!" In the third frame, she confronts Aunt Fritzi with "From now on, no more baths!"
And the final frame:
|Ha ha ha that's SO funny.|
As my uncle laughed heartily, I curled my lip in a sneer. It wasn't funny to me then, and it's not funny to me now. Even at 11, I recognized that they were mocking me and having a good laugh at my expense. I didn't appreciate the "humor" and HATED the gift.
Of course, that didn't matter; they just continued to believe that I was ungrateful and spoiled. My uncle hung the comic strip on the wall in my bedroom, where I was forced to look at it on a daily basis until they shipped me away a few years later.
I still have that comic strip, though I took it out of its frame years ago. I thought perhaps I could sell it as comic art, but apparently no one else thinks it's funny, either, and I've never received an offer. It's currently hidden away in a drawer, and I think the next time I stumble across it I'll take it out and burn it.
Did I mention that I HATE it?