The Day My Family Ruined My Shower Was the Day I Finally Snapped

When I was a child, my mother had two domains that belonged only to her; a private candy stockpile and her purse. Her candy stash was usually licorice snaps with the pastel coating or chocolate turtles or both. I can’t imagine my brother or I coveted either of those. We preferred cheap, artificial fruit flavored candy options, but she kept hers squirrelled away nonetheless.

This is what is left for mom. (Photo via Jen Larsen Fortner)

My mom’s two rules for my brother and me

It was an unspoken family rule-you don’t eat Mom’s candy and you don’t go hunting for it. I always found the hiding of it so odd. Tucked into a dark corner of a cupboard or a drawer in the china cabinet. As the adult, couldn’t she eat candy all day long with nobody to tell her otherwise? I thought that was the whole greatness of adulthood. You make all the rules and you don’t have to follow any of them. Plus, you have money earmarked for candy. 

Another rule of my childhood was you don’t, under any circumstances, rifle through Mom’s purse. I had friends who dug through their mother’s purse regularly. They looked for Chapstick or gum or cash and I found it exhilarating to watch because I wouldn’t have dared.

My mother’s purse then and now is a trip to the carnival. I can’t explain all that is in there but if you misplaced a receipt for a coat you purchased in 2003, it might be in my mom’s purse. She has receipts and mints and cosmetics and Kleenex and reading glasses and cash and hand lotion and stamps and granola bars and pain killers in her purse. Mary Poppins may have had a lamp in her bag but my mother likely has the light bulbs for it in hers. And they are her light bulbs. Not ours. 

I never realized that parenthood brings joy and sacrifice

I hadn’t considered that parenthood brings joy but also sacrifice on every level. And I certainly never understood the depth and breadth of that sacrifice until I became a mother. 

They start by taking over your body and leaving you with no abs. The newborns steal your sleep and your focus. The babies then are on the move getting in to everything.

They are crawling babies chewing on your best wooden spoon. Then they are toddlers licking your ice cream cone while they hold their own in their hand. They are kids playing a game on your phone right before they drop it on the asphalt. In an instant they morph into teenagers who borrow your Doc Martens. Then they drive your car and use your computer.

The time lapse from locking up sharp knives to considering where to wisely store liquor  (all in an effort to protect them), happens over two decades but it feels instantaneous. If it is within reach, it seems fair game to many kids. 

My grown kids are home now and they are everywhere

Everyone in my home is here 24/7 now. They are everywhere. Three kids in hoodies doing school on screens and very little outside social interaction. Never has my house felt so small, so loud and so very poorly insulated. The kitchen messes are constant. Every kid is using four glasses a day-for water.

If every room used to hold one errant sock, now there are three. The laundry basket overflows. Nobody visits us now, so the front entry has become a gathering place for crap. It’s now a permanent home to a hockey bag, things to be returned from late night online ordering whims, unopened mail and other detritus that can’t find its way back to a shelf. Suffice it to say-we are a relaxed household now. I’m so tired.

But it’s okay. All this togetherness is not bad. I know it’s temporary. I know when I’m old I may fondly remember “the year we stayed home.” I usually stay on an emotional even keel with that attitude. Until something ruined my shower one night and I finally snapped. There is nothing like the simple pleasure of a hot shower at the end of a long day. And this year has been about finding the calm in the simple things. I was about to fully enjoy my 10 minutes of peace. Until I got to the end of it. 

I couldn’t find a clean towel anywhere

I hunted high and low, dripping wet and cold , searching for a towel. The people I live with use bath towels like paper towels. One use and back for a fresh one. I throw on my robe, my hair leaving a trail of water on the floor and go through the linen closet, the clean laundry basket and then the bedroom floors.

I finally find the last clean towel. It is what we call “the dog towel.” It’s the 20 year old, near threadbare in spots, blue towel with the frayed edges. It predates all of my children. It’s the towel our dog catches sight of and immediately cowers in the corner because he knows his bath is imminent.

And when I spot that towel, I lose it. So I yell out to nobody as everyone is safely sequestered in their rooms with headsets or earbuds or AirPods securely jammed into their ears,



I threw quite a little fit. By myself to myself. 

Quarantine has blurred our boundaries

Because nobody cares about what towel I end up with. Our togetherness has reached a new level of blurred boundaries where every family member is carving out joy wherever they can-other people’s towel be damned. They have taken over every inch of this house.

They have chewed up our quarantine home and spit it back out. Stolen every charger for their own. Eaten all the chips. Worn out their bike tires and then started riding my bike. Lost my best gloves. Used up all the hot water without apologizing. Because a year of together has also caused “what’s mine is mine and what is yours is also about to be mine”. My licorice is gone. My purse is rummaged through for hand sanitizer and single use masks. 

And I pause to consider my mother. In 1980. And her beloved black licorice. And her overstuffed purse. Her last bastions of ownership. Possessions belonging to her and only her. And I finally get it. 

I have begun to hide a fresh towel. I will tuck a sea salt caramel chocolate bar inside. 

More to Read:

I Love My Family Dearly But I Desperately Need Some Me Time

About Jen LarsenFortner

Jen Fortner lives in Minnesota with her husband, three children and the best dog on earth.  She has a MSW degree that never gets used other than to diagnose family members at holiday gatherings. She has a blog at where she tells stories about her family that they never read.

Read more posts by Jen

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