My uncle was lucky enough to marry a girl from a very rich family. They own what they would call a cabin, and what anyone else would call a mansion, on a small lake in Montana. This family is gracious enough to let my uncle invite all of his brothers and their families for a week of fun each summer to use the cabin and all of the water toys. I remember the first time my family and I went to what is probably my favorite place in the world. All of my siblings and I were present, but my sister, Olivia, who is most important in this case, was only about a year and a half old. I was ten.
Now, on the first day at the cabin, my parents and most of the other aunts and uncles like to go into town to buy groceries and other goodies that are much cheaper in the States. They left in the early afternoon, when my sister was getting very tired. My grandmother assured my mom that she would put her to bed right away and there was no need to worry – she would be a great babysitter. My mom agreed, but reminded my grandma to tape Olivia’s diaper shut for reasons that will soon be made clear. My grandma, of course, promptly forgot, and put Olivia to sleep in the nice crib in one of the cabin-mansion’s beautifully decorated bedrooms.
I can’t remember what we did for the next few hours, but I do remember when my little sister woke up. I followed my grandma into the room where she was supposed to be sleeping, and we were in for a shock. My little sister, upon waking up with a full diaper, had opened the thing and thrown the contents all over the walls, making a huge brown mess on the pale blue paint. She was standing in the bed buck naked with the hugest smile on her little baby face.
Now, this would not be nearly as funny a story if it weren’t for my little cousin, who was about three years old at the time. Little Walker took after his dad down to every mannerism, and for a toddler, he was very particular about messes. He had the misfortune of walking into my little sister’s room right when my grandma and I found her. It was very funny to see his little face freeze in terror. After a moment, he took a deep breath and said, horrified, “Why would she do that?”
“Grandma, I think I can hear Olivia laughing on the baby monitor,” I say. Grandma is sitting on the lawn chair, trying to get her skin to what she calls a “nice tan,” color but I would say is more of a “burnt lobster.”
“Oh, is she?” says Grandma. “Well, we better get her. I think you should come with me, OK darling?”
I nod and follow Grandma into the house. I don’t know what Olivia’s doing, but she sounds awfully loud. I’m surprised she hasn’t started crying yet – that kid has barely stopped wailing since the moment she was born.
Grandma opens the door first, and she stops before I can get in behind her. “What’s up?” I ask, trying to shove my way in.
“Oh my goodness,” says Grandma in that flustered way that only Grandma speaks, all whispery and soft.
I push my way through and I see Olivia standing up in her crib. Her diaper is on one corner of the mattress and her hands are a mucky brownish yellow. The best thing, though, is the room. It’s absolutely covered in poo! I can’t help but burst out laughing.
“You didn’t tape her diaper shut, did you?” I ask Grandma.
“No, of course not!” she says. “Who tapes their baby’s diaper shut? That’s such a strange thing to do, I thought surely your mother must have been joking!”
“Well, now you know,” I say. “I’m not cleaning that up – you’re the babysitter.” Once Olivia sees us, she stops giggling at her mess and starts to cry. She always does that when she wants attention. She’s terribly needy for a one-year-old.
“Grandma,” says a little boy’s voice from the hallway. “Do you want to see the crawdad I caught?”
Walker stops in his tracks when he gets in the room. He looks around with a mixture of disappointment and fear on his face. The bucket of water that he’s holding drops to the floor. Finally, he looks at Olivia, and then to my grandma. “Why would she do that?” he breathes.
I laugh. Grandma, looking thoroughly disgusted, picks up Olivia, who is whimpering rather loudly now, delicately under the arms and carries her quickly to the nearest bathroom. I follow her, because I don’t know what else to do, and there is no way that I’m staying in the bedroom to wipe poo off of the walls. I expect Walker to run away as quickly as he can, but instead he follows us and keeps talking as Grandma tries to get Olivia clean.
“Why would she do that?” asks Walker again. He’s shocked, but oddly fascinated by the whole thing. “Who would do that?” he asks me. “That’s… so disgusting. Poo. So disgusting.”
James and Janine Thompson had a very nice day at the Target in Eureka. They made quite a few purchases of things they could only find in a US store, and they spent a little more money than they probably should have. In fact, they didn’t think about the four children they had left in James’ mother’s care for the whole day, assuming, rather incorrectly, that everything would be fine.
They pulled into the driveway, and Janine started unpacking groceries into the cabin’s kitchen, chatting with her sister-in-law Beth, whose parents owned the cabin, along the way. She didn’t see anyone upstairs, so she assumed that her mother-in-law and all of the children must be outside playing in the lake.
After they were finished, Janine and Beth walked outside to check on the children, but instead of finding the grandmother watching over the hoard of kids playing in the water, she found her ten-year-old daughter, Alex, reading a book and keeping one rather lazy eye on the other children.
“Where’s Grandma?” asked Janine.
“Oh, hi Mom!” said Alex, a little too jumpy. “Oh, you’re gonna be so mad. Grandma’s in the bathroom next to Olivia’s room. Walker’s there too,” she said to Beth, Walker’s mother.
Janine already feared the worst as she walked down the hallway to the bedrooms. She found that the bathroom was empty. Instead, her mother-in-law was busy in the bedroom. She was on her hands and knees, scrubbing a suspicious brown substance out of the floor, while an angry year-old girl wailed on the floor beside her, and a curious toddler watched her every move.
“I think you missed a spot,” said Walker. He turned around when Janine and Beth entered the room. “Mom!” he exclaimed. “Olivia pooed during nap time and then threw her poo!” He said the last phrase in a whisper, as though it was almost too crazy to speak of.
Janine’s face reddened. “I’m so sorry, Beth,” she said, picking up Olivia. “I know this is your parent’s house. We’ll get everything off the walls, don’t worry.”
To her relief, Beth simply laughed. “I’m sure it’ll be fine,” she said. “And what my parents don’t know doesn’t hurt them.”