Toilet Paper and Tears: Discovering the Writer Within


I was full of imagination as a young girl. My mother says I was always telling stories and organizing make-believe with my two younger sisters, the neighbor kids and children from her home day care. Of course, I needed a loud, authoritative voice to be such a leader and I used it both day and night. It didn’t matter if I was dictating a group of preschoolers or playing on my own–I was on stage. My audience, whom I often envisioned watching me on a television commercial would need to hear me loud and clear.

One such commercial involved me, the star, selling toilet paper as I sat on the toilet during my morning school preparation ritual. I often got myself ready for school while my mother and sisters snoozed away. Unfortunately for my mom, the toilet faced the mirror-clad wall that divided my parents’ room from our only bathroom. Gold trimmed, square-foot mirrors covered that wall from ceiling to floor! How could a six-year-old resist? Not only could I rehearse my commercial, I could watch myself in action, just like I was on real TV.

For several days I practiced my commercial as part of my routine. Each time I reached the climatic ending my mother bellowed from her slumber.

“Shut Up!”

My heart wrenched and my stomach felt suddenly hollow. Even as the boisterous leading lady, I still had feelings. Using exaggerated facial expressions as a replacement for my voice, I attempted to complete my monologue. But, my voice must have elevated itself as I emphasized the economical advantages of my preferred brand of toilet paper because the next thing I knew…

“Roanne! Shut Up!”

I set the unused roll on the counter near the sink and headed toward the kitchen sulking to myself. When repercussions of my verbal imagination were thwarted the next morning, I decided to take action. I quietly marched into my mother’s room.

“Mommy,” I breathed. Long, honey blond hair wrapped around her face and pillow, concealing her nose and lips. Their red and blue paisley comforter bunched up around her head and neck as the rest of her body sunk belly down into a king-sized water-bed with a stained wooden frame.

“Hmmm…” she mumbled, wrinkling her forehead and squeezing her eyes closed even more.

“Can you please tell me to be quiet more nicely? When you say ‘shut up’, it really hurts my feelings.”

“Uh huh.” She sighed into her pillow. Her sour morning breath drifted into my nose from beneath the comforter. Then she turned her head until I could only see a pile of hair on the pillow.

Satisfied she had heard and understood me, I left and finished getting ready for school in silence.

The next morning, when it was time to do my commercial again, I felt a sense of encouragement from my small, yet fragile ego. This would be my final take. I had watched the little, brown-haired girl on television the night before, making mental notes on how to improve my own performance. Just as I was getting to the good part, and grabbed a fresh roll from the cupboard to show how soft my brand was, I was interrupted.

“Roanne! Shut Up!” My mother roared meaner and louder that she ever had before.

Hot, but silent tears gushed down my cheeks. My mother hadn’t heard me at all! Or she did hear me and didn’t care. I tore off several sheets of the Softest Toilet Paper on Earth and blew my nose with as little noise as possible. It was my final take all right, only not as I imagined it would be.

My commercial making days ended that morning. However, my imagination continued to build internally until I learned to write. When I was in the fifth grade, I received encouraging words from an elementary school teacher on a writing assignment. After that, I began expressing myself to no end with my quieter story telling method.

My mother doesn’t recall the incident in which she shattered my future in theater while simultaneously redirecting my storytelling urge into a lifelong passion for writing. Although I am known to tell personal stories on occasion, I try to only tell them if the receiving end appears interested, and awake.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *