Warning: I am sorry for what you are about to read. I was sorry I lived it, at the time.

When my grandparents moved “back home” to the rural countryside after Granddaddy’s retirement, they began converting a bedroom to a bathroom in the house where they raised three children in the 1940s and 50s. I was around six when this particular event occurred. I couldn’t imagine a house without a bathroom (or a phone, but that comes later). My dad told stories of growing up without a bathroom: everyone took turns bathing in a tub by the heater in the living room, behind a blanket hung from a string. So, up to this point, there was an outhouse in use; I have no memory of that, but…

As I said, apologies.


I will not go

But you said you had to


but not anymore

It’s not good to hold it

I’m not holding it


Granddaddy is,

he sets it there on the floor

white enamel pot

with a pretty red rim

it even has 

a matching lid

We’ll go out, says Grandma

you just call us when you’re done,

so Granddaddy can take it outside
and dump it


I don’t have to go!

We did this years ago

Daddy scowls,

stop crying

it’s not going to hurt you

just go

The pot sits waiting


I don’t even want to know

what happens after and

I’d rather bust with No. 2, so no


Chamber pot. Marion Doss. CC BY-SA

The perfectly beautiful, modern bathroom was soon finished at my grandparents’ home, although they occasionally referred to the toilet as “the pot” throughout the remainder of their years. I can’t recall seeing the chamber pot ever again. Thank heaven.


The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 16, I am writing around a word beginning with letter p, which could really have gone in a number of directions here

Special thanks to Kim Johnson for the invitation to write a vivid childhood memory this week on Ethical ELA, inspiring this poem.

30 thoughts on “Pot

  1. For me, the best stories are the memories of a way of life, of traditions, of those who shared blood and love.

    We had an outhouse about 20 or 30 feet back from the house. At the edge of the woods. Where the coyotes gathered in the dark of night to howl. Fear is less about what you can see than what you can’t.

    I was afraid to go to the outhouse at night, even with a flashlight. So I peed off the edge of the porch and scrambled back into the safety of our log cabin. And in the early morning light I would bravely go out into the damp, chilly yard to gather pinecones to start the morning fire. And to scrape fresh dirt to cover last night’s contribution.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For me, it’s a valuable lesson in what I take for granted, and only deepens my appreciation for the generations who went before. I treasure (from a safe distance, in the case!) the firsthand experiences with some of the old ways and living histories, before they passed.


  2. I love the warning you gave and the memory you told, perfectly! HA! This made me laugh! I can only imagine the horror you felt at such a young age! I am grateful they did get a modern bathroom!! Thank you for sharing this slice!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a versatile word to use as your title. Coupled with the warning and apology it left open many possibilities. I was not expecting the “chamber” variety. The disappearance of the outhouse (and, I guess the chamber pot) has removed a lot of story possibilities from later generations. At my camp, one of the elder leaders used to read a story called “The Specialist” every summer at our “council fire.” I can still hear it in my head.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I laughed so hard. We went to an outdoor concert one time and BOTH my children felt this same level of NO toward the Johnny-on-the-Spot options. We left the concert. My husband, whose grandparents had an outhouse until his adulthood, was not amused. Great slice!

    Liked by 1 person

    • NO to the Port-o-Potties as well! I am so glad this unappealing Slice made you laugh. My father had a story (too many, I think) about outhouses, such as the one at his aunt’s; there was an electric fence nearby and you had to be careful not to run into it – and that fence would would sizzle and pop in the rain. I said, Welp, if you did hit it, I guess you wouldn’t have to go anymore… now I really wish I could hear him telling those stories again.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We had an outhouse at our camp for years. This post reminds of those late night hikes excursions out, while the male cousins waited to scare us girls! Memories are like warm hugs. Thanks for reminding me of some of mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The horrors of a chamber pot! I am so grateful that the flush toilet was invented. My mother grew up without a bathroom in Wisconsin. I remember using an outhouse when we would go to visit. It is not a smell I want to relive.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the structure of this piece! I, too, would have refused, no matter what the consequences. Some of our technological advances may not be the best for society, but indoor plumbing and toilets definitely do not fall into that category!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This made me giggle and also appreciate indoor bathrooms! It also reminds me of when I used to visit my great uncle, and they used to point out the outhouse to us kids!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The smile came as soon as I read “converting”, though I really didn’t expect a chamber pot! The closest I have come to this story was primitive camping in the Girl Scouts. Digging a latrine and then using it when it finally couldn’t be avoided is an experience I’d rather not repeat!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Kid vs. grownup vs. pot: the ULTIMATE battle of wills. For a kid, everything about this is big and important. And the grown-ups, who have forgotten the rules of kid-dom and can’t figure out for the life of them what the big deal is. I can picture it ALL. Thanks for the smile today, Fran.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought after I wrote: Might there be a good reason behind a young child’s “No”? Besides asserting independence and parroting what’s so often said to the child? This event was a borderline psychological trauma! You’re right about grown-ups forgetting, just so many things, including the magic of childhood, sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Ha ha, the chamber pot! Love your story and refusal to go no matter what! That would probably have been me too. It brings back memories of history and chamber pot contents being thrown out of upstairs windows onto crowded streets below…!! In fact, I think they still do it occasionally in China, they definitely spit out of windows…. which could lead me onto train tracks being a common public toilet for men in India. I’m so glad I don’t travel by train any more over there!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am recalling that’s where the expression “gardyloo!” originated, from throwing chamber pot contents out of an upper window to the streets. Your travels fascinate me…yikes to those tracks!


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