“Y’all better learn how to share!” Mom would say, as if she was introducing a new concept. Zach and I had been sharing all of our lives. We shared a bedroom, and a bed. between snatching the covers and sticking your freezing cold feet on your brother’s back, we understood that sharing was a momentary truce in the constant struggle for the upper hand. Usually we had be admonished to share if one of us had gotten a new toy or item of interest. We were so used to sharing everything that if we ever got the chance to pick out something new, we would go out of our way to find what the other didn’t like so we didn’t have to share. I think that’s why I play guitar. We were so good at sharing we had to learn how to enjoy something on our own.
We even shared the tub and shower. Mom had one of those old claw footed cast iron tubs in which a grown man could bathe fully submerged if he wanted to wait long enough for the water fill. We shared a bath until we couldn’t fit in the tub without touching one another. Which was a sure way to start a fist fight, the last thing Momma wanted to deal with while she was trying to get us clean for bed. And man did we get filthy playing in the woods and cotton field behind our house. I remember more than once mom making me get back in the tub cause I still had “granny beads”, or dirt in the cracks in my neck.
Once we outgrew the tub, we had to “learn how to share” a shower. I was half grown before I figured out how to regulate the hot water on our single knobbed shower, so I usually conceded the position closest to the nozzle to Zach, who by some wizardry understood this conundrum. At least I trusted that he did. When Zach was feeling particularly spiteful he would tell me that he had “put Ajax” in the shower. I’m not really certain why I was so mortified of Ajax, but I was. I would scream, holler and cry until Mom would come in and ask what was going on. “He put Ajax in here!” I would explain. Zach would feign ignorance which added to Mom’s confusion.
He didn’t always torment me in the shower though, we often played until the hot water ran out. Our house had a peculiarity in the plumbing where if you flushed the commode or ran water while the shower was running, the hot water cut out and left the miserable bather with a blast of freezing cold water. Sometimes I think Mom did this on purpose to speed us up a little bit.
One particular time I remember Zach and I taking a shower and having a rollicking good time singing. We were stomping our feet in a rhythm while Zach sang, “I’m Tom Sawyer” and I would answer “I’m Huckleberry Finn.” We did this at the top of our lungs. It was great fun. We hadn’t learned that music had critics yet. We must have kept it up until we sensed that the hot water was about to run out when all of the sudden Dad burst into the bathroom like a charging elephant, snatched the shower door open and spanked both of us soundly. We were both a bit dumbfounded because usually Dad gave us a warning shot. We learned later that he had been telling us to pipe down since the opening line of our concert.
Now that I have kids of my own I find myself echoing my parents as I try to teach my kids how to play nicely together and share for goodness sake. Although I’m pretty sure they’re having so much fun that they don’t hear me most of the time.