My sedan is full of boys, ten and eleven year olds. They’re telling stories and they’ve stumbled upon their perfect topic combo: tattling on siblings meets toilet humor. We hear about pooh smears and a two year old eating a log like a candy bar, tales any sane child would keep to himself and every sibling delights in telling.
I hear my son pipe up. His voice sends up an entire drill team of red flags in my gut. He says, “My mom ate poo once, didn’t you mom!!” The car erupts in groans and howls. “I was five!” I yell over the din. “And I want a new mouth now. Maybe a new son too,” I mutter as I take our exit, swooping over the freeway.
“What? How?!” They clamber.
The neighbor girl Debbi and I are five. One of us poops in the toilet. One of us wonders if it would taste as bad as it smells. Dares are levied. I wager no one will ever find out. Debbi and I would keep the secret forever. And so I reach down through the cold toilet water and… and… and I break that taboo, that utterly sensible taboo. I scooped a dab onto my pointer finger and quickly … It tasted like you’d imagine it would, like shit. And the secret kept until my son was three.
When he was three, he wondered aloud what poo would taste like. As any good mother would, I flung myself between my child and imminent health danger with an embarrassing memory on the side. I told him it tasted like it smelled, but slightly less flavorful than you’d imagine. And he wanted to know how I knew for sure.
I’m wishing just now, however, that I’d kept my cautionary tale to myself and my son had earned his own secret, one he’d be much more likely to keep. But how could I blame him? The tale is one of daring and courage and disgust and by someone’s mother no less! To a car full of boys, it was the grossest tale ever told, and to them gross is a synonym for great.
And now all the pre-adolescent boys I know are sitting in the back seat in a hushed and hallowed awe of my son’s mother.
We arrive finally at the warehouse of trampolines. They all leap from the car and I realize my secret’s out now, well and truly out, exuberantly out, and bouncing off the walls.
I imagine his story goes like this: It’s my birthday. Actually my birthday was last week. I’m 11 now. We are on the way to Sky High, my favorite trampoline place. Actually, it’s the only trampoline place I know.
We pick up Bishop and Silas (but not in that order) and we’re all joking and laughing about everything. Someone, maybe it’s Bishop, he starts talking about his little brothers. He’s talking about them and about poop. We’ve all got stories about poop.
And I told mine. It’s not actually my story – it’s my mom’s. But it feels like mine. I can’t remember ever NOT knowing the story. I love this story. My mom ate poop, straight out of the toilet, on a dare, a dare she maybe even started herself. She was little, so it’s a little okay.
The boys love it. They can’t believe it. Of course nobody even believes their parents were kids, not just kids, but really stupid and weird kids. I think she must’ve grown out of it. God, I hope she did. What if my mom still eats poo?! I’m pretty sure no one else’s mom tried poo. Girls don’t try poo. Moms don’t try poo. It’s crazy is what it is. We’re laughing – we can’t believe it. Mom. Girl. Poo!
I can’t ever forget it. And I don’t think my friends will either. I’m the kid with the mom that was gross once and that makes me cool, forever.