Family Photos, Outdoor Toilets, and Hollow Children
This one is of my aunt Katie and her two daughters. This photo would have been taken in the early 1960s; Aunt Katie would have been around 90 years old, if I remember right. Aunt Katie wasn't really my aunt, but, as far as I can figure, was my grandmother's cousin. I'll let you figure out what that makes her in relation to me.
I hadn't thought about Aunt Katie in years, until I had little conversation with Julana of Life in the Slow Lane about outdoor toilets. When I was a small girl (six-or-sevenish), my family visited Aunt Katie a couple of times. I don't remember a whole lot about those visits. I know that Aunt Katie lived on the grounds of the Mount Carmel Home, which was a Brethren in Christ orphanage in Illinois. I think she had worked there when she was younger--or perhaps it was her daughters who worked there. See? I don't remember many of the really important details, but I do remember what seemed most important to me as a young girl: Aunt Katie had an indoor outdoor toilet. Yep, attached directly to her little home--you see a corner of the home in the photo--was a little shed roofed outhouse. A two-seater, it was, and you entered from inside the house, right off the dining area.
Our visits to Aunt Katie were also my first exposures to children who didn't live in families. I remember the orphanage as bleak and spare, without softness or brightness or warmth. The children's beds were lined up dormitory style--rows of metal beds, each with a thin mattress covered with white sheets and a thin wool blanket. Even though I was only six or seven, I understood that there was something different about the children I'd met there. I remember thinking in the car on the way home that they had been "hollow children", as if nothing would ever be able to fill them up. I also remember being really thankful that I had a family.
Waiting for the big point to this post? There isn't one. Writing this, however, I was reminded that the oddest things can make lasting impressions on children, and that life-long lessons come from ordinary experiences, like a visit to an elderly aunt. And one more thing: quiet children in the back seat may be thinking deep thoughts, even if they never articulate them.