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Potty Talk by Anne Martine Cook

Scott and Sloane Barrett were scurrying around, tidying up their slightly messy house for an unexpected visit from Scott’s mother and father.  Sloane felt a bit frantic, knowing that in less than an hour, the most particular, proper two people on earth were about to descend upon her. 

“I’m really not ready for this, Scott,” Sloane complained.  “I wish we had more warning.”

“I know, Sloane,” Scott replied.  “But they are coming through on their way to Florida.  I don’t know what else I could have said.  I couldn’t have them think they couldn’t come.” 

Davey and Mary, the four-year-old Barrett twins felt their parents’ tension.  It was unusual for them to be so preoccupied with cleaning up.  Mary went off to her little desk and began to color cards for her grandparents.  Davey began to chant at the top of his lungs, “Pee pee, pee pee, poo poo, poop!”  After four repetitions, he finally got his parents’ attention, when he threw in “Diarrhea on Cisco!”  Cisco was their yellow Lab. 

“You know what, Davey?  That’s it!”  Sloane was losing her patience.  “Go to your room and stay there until Daddy or I say you may come out!”

With an uncharacteristic nudge from Scott, Davey, ran upstairs.  Mary kept coloring.

Sloane puffed the couch pillows, straightened a stack of magazines, and looked around the living room desperately, imagining what her in-laws might think.  “Scott, maybe this is as good as it is going to get.”

Scott came over and hugged Sloane.  “The place looks fine.  I know this impromptu visit has thrown things off but it will be short.  Let’s just make the best of it, and do something fun afterwards.”

Sloane agreed.  She looked at Mary who was carefully folding another white piece of paper.  “I wish I were more like Mary, Scott.  She is able to find something happy and peaceful in everything.”

“Sloane you do too, most of the time.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Mary showed them her cards.  One said, “I love you Gigi and Biff.  xoxo.”  Another had the letters G and B inside a heart.  Finally, the third, written in many colors said, “I love you Mommy and Daddy.  xoxo.”  

“Thank you, sweetheart,” Sloane said.  “Those are great.”  She hugged her little girl.

The doorbell chimed.  Mary squealed with delight and leaped towards the door. 

“Hello, Gigi and Biff.  I am four now.  So is Davey.  I can write.” 

Sloane and Scott hugged Scott’s parents and took their coats.

“Is that a new painting, Sloane?  I’m not familiar with it.”

“We’ve been moving things around, Gigi.  It isn’t new but it is in a new spot,” Sloane explained.  She felt so on edge.

“Where’s Davey?”  Gigi asked.  “He’s usually running all over the house, shouting at the top of his lungs.  Has he settled down a bit?” 

“Uhh… How about Bloody Marys?”  Scott asked them.  “Come on in the kitchen.”

Scott and Biff made the Bloody Marys together.  “The kitchen looks surprisingly clean, Scott.  Really you have gotten rid of stacks of junk.”

“Well, Dad, we try a little harder when we know we have royalty visiting,” Scott said to his father with a smile, handing him the tall glass.  Biff stirred his drink with the stalk of celery. 

“Cheers, and welcome, Mom,” Scott smiled.  He handed Gigi and Sloane their drinks and poured some chocolate milk for Mary.  They all clicked glasses.

The clicks let Davey know a little party was on its way.  He called from the landing, “Hi, Poops!” and ran back upstairs.

Sloane excused herself and went up the stairs.  There was Davey, with shaving cream all over his face.  Sloane felt like letting him have it.  To their surprise, Gigi came upstairs too.

Gently but definitely, Gigi asked, “May I talk to Davey for a few minutes?”  Sloane hesitated for a second.  She worried that Davey would really say something really rude.  Finally she shrugged.  “I don’t see why not.”  Starting downstairs again, Sloane felt uneasy.  She stopped halfway down to listen. 

Gigi took Davey into the bathroom and began wiping the shaving cream off his face. “Why do you think you are saying bathroom words, Davey?” 

“Sometimes I just like to.  Mommy and Daddy were so busy.  They were only talking to each other so I decided to be a pain.  I said pee pee and poop.  Then they got mad at me.”

“You know Davey, when your daddy was little he liked potty talk for a little while,” Gigi said with a smile.

“Daddy?  Really?” 

Gigi held Davey’s soft hand as they sat on his bed.  “Was it fun up here by yourself?”

“Not really.  I didn’t like that Mommy and Daddy were mad and I knew it was my fault.  I wanted to be there when you rang the doorbell.  You know something else, Gigi?  I wish I could write.”

Sloane was riveted to the conversation, amazed at Gigi’s composure and kindness. 

“How did Daddy stop saying poop and everything?  Did you punish him?”

“Some parents spanked their children for potty talk, but we knew that wasn’t a good idea.  Some took away television or treats.  Some yelled and screamed or put their children in the bathroom where those words belonged.  One day your daddy came out to the garden as we were planting geraniums.  Biff and I were busy and in your daddy’s mind, he was not included.  We heard, “Poop on plants, poop on Mommy, pee pee on Daddy.” 

“We asked your daddy if he would help.  He dug a perfect hole and then another.  He helped plant the geraniums and watered them.  He was such a help.”

“Wow, cool.  I like to dig holes.  I could do gardening too.”

“Later on when your daddy was in the bathtub, Davey, we talked about the potty talk.

He said, “I wanted to be with you and you only wanted to help Daddy.” 

“We were busy trying to do a job, but your Daddy thought we didn’t want him around. When we made extra little times for him, that potty talk left us for good.”

Davey just looked at Gigi.  They were still holding hands.  “When it warms up, Davey, you can help to plant whatever your Mom and Dad would love to put in the garden.” 

“Really, Gigi?  For real life?”

“You bet, Davey.  But stop that baby potty talk.  I don’t know anyone who likes it.”

“Okay, Gigi, I will.  Let’s go downstairs.”

Everyone was sitting in the living room enjoying crackers and cheese when Davey came in.  “I don’t say potty talk any more.  Only babies do that.”  He ran to his father’s lap.

“It is nice to have you with us, Davey.”  Scott and Sloane looked at each other with relief.

Mary smiled at her brother.  “Davey, I can teach you to write as long as you don’t write potty talk.”  Everyone laughed.

The afternoon flew by.  Soon Gigi and Biff got ready to leave for the airport.

Sloane hugged her mother-in-law.  “Thank you, Gigi.  I heard what you said to Davey. That was flawless.” 

“Sloane, darling, it was great for me, too.  It brought back an old memory about Scott.

This was such a lovely time.  You were a good sport about this impromptu visit.  I do like that painting too, dear.  It is in the perfect spot.” 

Biff hugged Mary and Davey and gave Sloane a kiss on the cheek.  “Thank you.  We’ll see you in a few months.”

They got into their silver car.  Everyone felt sorry to see them go.  Gigi put down her window.  Waving her cards, she thanked Mary again.  “And Davey, I’ll bring you a trowel when I come back.”

Davey waved back.  “I can’t wait, Gigi.”

Back in their house, Mary continued her card making.  Davey followed his mother and father as they cleaned the kitchen.  With a little blue dustpan he swept up the cracker crumbs.

“That’s great help, Davey.  Thank you.”


Sloane felt the warm feeling in their house.  Her heart had been opened in many places.  It seemed ridiculous that just hours earlier, she had been a wreck about Gigi and Biff’s visit, thinking that plumping up pillows made a difference.  She hoped potty talk was behind them for the time being.  The painting did look good in its new spot.  As she walked into the kitchen, hearing the hum of the dishwasher, Sloane took a deep breath and relaxed.

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