Wednesday, January 13, 2010


When I was a kid and we visited our grandmother in Moose Lake, Minnesota we were returned to a more primitive time due to her lack of running water. She did not get running water until 1979. She had an outhouse and a pump house. We kids used to actually fight over the chance to carry her metal milk buckets out to the pump house and pump the water and bring them back. It was kind of like Jack and Jill but without the hill. Those buckets were NOT aluminum either. I have one here that I took (with permission) after a trip back home and they are heavy.
It was a long walk to the pump house. It was out the back door, past the driveway parking area, past the garden, past the chicken coop, past the feed storage room, and more than halfway to the barn.
Pumping water used to be one of my favorite parts of visiting my Grandma Costello. It's quite the experience for those of you unfortunate enough to have never experienced it. It's not like a tap where you just turn it on and the water magically appears. When you first start pumping it is very easy and you have very little resistance. It's like pumping air. Then you start to hear the gurgles as the water starts to rise and the pumping gets a little harder. It takes a few minutes before you are pumping a steady full stream of water. When you get close to the top you stop pumping because it also takes a minute for the water to stop.
I'm not sure why the next part seemed so great, but then you carried your two heavy buckets full of water back to the house working hard to not spill the contents as the water sloshed from the motion of walking. Grandma had this lovely little piece of furniture called a commode and that is where we put the two buckets of water. One bucket got a ladle for dipping out water for when we wanted a drink. The other bucket was for cooking. Both buckets were covered with a cotton towel made from a flour sack to keep the flies and any dirt or dust out. They sat on a towel on the lovely little commode.
I always wanted that little commode. It was very nice with a couple of drawers and glass towel rods on either side just under the lip of the top. It also had a shelf below but I really can't remember if the shelf was behind doors or not. I loved it to death and one day my grandmother told me that after she died I could have that little commode. I was so happy. Grandma gave me lots of things over the years. Some things she knew I loved but she loved them, too, so she would promise them to me for after she was gone.
People started taking her stuff and sometimes she would have me hide some of our favorite stuff so it wouldn't disappear. I always thought it was sad that my cousins wouldn't leave her stuff alone. I only saw her occasionally because we lived out of state and only came back for visits. I tried to help her whenever I was there. She and I had our own little rituals when I was there, but that is a different blog. Or maybe I already wrote about that. I can't remember.
Well, anyway...
Eventually, of course my grandmother died. She only had plumbing for about three years of her life and she really hated it. After she got the plumbing she still had the commode sitting there, but the buckets were no longer used. That is how I happened to get one. She gave it to me on my last visit to see her before she died. And she reminded me that I was to get the commode. She reminded others of that, too, but I never got the commode. I tried to make arrangements for it to be shipped to me, but no one would cooperate. My mom made a trip back there sometime in the next year to go to her class reunion and she was going to try and get it shipped back to me, but it was gone. She asked about it.
"Oh, that old thing. We burned it with the other old furniture. Sheila never came to get it."
That may not be an exact quote but it's close enough. They knew it was supposed to be mine. Apparently they decided since I didn't drop everything and fly out to Minnesota and pick it up that I didn't really want it.
Tonight I went on a Craig's List run to get a free cabinet that I want to use like a pantry cupboard. The person had an estate sale last weekend and there were things left over. I was looking through them and bought a few old things for my kitchen. We went through the house and looked around and visited with the woman who was there and it was fun. A really nice visit with a stranger. When we finally got done visiting and perusing the stuff that was left she showed us where the cabinet was and how we had to go to get it outside to our car. We found a couple of more treasures down there and I didn't even haggle on prices because they were very reasonable. We got to the last room where the garage door was and opened the garage door. I turned around because I was still looking at everything and OMGoodness! I almost had a heart attack because there by the door sat a little commode. It is not exactly like my grandmothers, but it is about the same age. It doesn't have the glass rods on the sides, but I think I might be able to find some and attach them. Her father had taken it down in the shop and used it for who knows what. The finish needs a little work (well, ok, a lot of work) but I fell in love with it immediately. I asked her about it. She was surprised that her dad had used it like he had, but she was willing to let it go for a few bucks. I am so excited. Even though it is not my grandmother's it will represent it for me. A lady at work asked me just the other day if I was interested in her pitcher and bowl set and I'm going to let her know I am. She wants to give it to me and it will be perfect on the commode in my bathroom. My grandmother's was painted so instead of trying to refinish it natural I'm just going to sand it a little and paint it. I have to find two more handles or I might use some wood putty and put little glass knobs on it like my grandmothers had.
I didn't take a picture of it yet because I had to get this posted and it was almost midnight.
I will post pictures later in the week.

1 comment:

mental mosaic said...

What special memories!

How mean of them to burn that commode. Grr!

I'm glad you at least got a bucket. Sounds like your 'bucket list,' literally included a bucket, huh? ;p