Sibling Shenanigans

Sibling Shenanigans

A Story by Marilyn C

Demo of personal narrative for 5th grade writers workshop


Sibling Shenanigans �" by M. Gorgas Cahill

The mentor text for this piece was:  My Side of the Story by Adam Bagdasarian

I don’t know who first came up with the bright idea of hiding in the bathroom when our “donna” (or “la bonne” as we called her) had to go, but I do know that I look back on that event with a fair degree of shame.

Her name was Josefa, and she was one of many domestic assistants who faithfully reported to our house each day to relieve my mother of much of the drudgery involved in managing a family of eight.  Solid and stolid, dressed in black from rubber-soled shoes to onyx earrings, she resolutely plodded from one duty to another without complaint, but without much cheer either.  This demeanor might have been because her culture required a year of mourning for each relative who “passed”, no matter how distant, and usually before that year was up another relative had gone on to meet their Maker, and the cycle of wearing black had to start over.  Or, it might just have been because my,  and my siblings’, shenanigans (or “bêtises” as such behavior was called in the country where we lived) made Josefa very, very weary.

I should mention that we didn’t really know what language Josefa spoke.  Since our home was in Confignon, Switzerland, the local language was French, and we did make out some French words mixed into her discourse.  She, herself, was from Spain, and her husband was Italian, and Josefa’s lexicon included a mishmash of all three languages spoken with a unique accent. This is why I remember so well the words she uttered that day.

How or why my brother Fred and I knew Josefa’s destination was the bathroom at that particular moment is a question that has vanished into the fog of memories from fifty years ago.  “I’ll go behind the shower curtain,” I suggested, “and you climb into the hamper and close the lid.” Fred cackled with glee, anticipating the prank, as he disappeared into the depths of the covered hamper.

Motionless and silent, we waited for our prey, and soon, with only one thing on her mind, Josefa arrived.  She closed the door and headed purposefully to the toilet, turned around, and hoisted her black skirt and slip. I caught only a glimpse of her stocky legs, undershorts, and opaque black stockings before Fred and I burst out of hiding hollering “Surprise!”

Poor Josefa froze in mid-motion, hands still on her waistband.  She didn’t seem to know whether to laugh or cry, but obviously felt obligated to rebuke us. As we snickered and shrieked and bolted out of the bathroom, we heard her famous words, half-Italian, half-French, with a Castilian accent, words which have become a family catchphrase signifying the need for a trip to the bathroom:

“Eh! Moi vuole fare pipi!”

As I said, our “bêtises” that day fill me with shame and regret. And, whenever I go into a bathroom now, I check behind the shower curtain before I take care of business.

© 2015 Marilyn C

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Added on May 1, 2015
Last Updated on May 1, 2015
Tags: sibling, europe, switzerland, prank, bratty


Marilyn C
Marilyn C


Teacher - Elementary & Community College more..