Author: Jennifer Mueller
The world has changed a lot since I was a girl. I grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950's. My world consisted of my street. My street! There were 10 brownstone apartments with 6 families each, and each family had at least two kids. Across the street were another 10 apartments all the same. Do the math. There were almost 250 kids on the block.
Let me tell you about the summer I was 11 years old.
I lived in the third story apartment in number 62, two doors down from the candy store. Everybody's house was the same (or a mirror image, depending what side of the hall you lived on). You came into a big kitchen with the bathroom off to one side. Then you came to my mom and dad's bedroom, then our bedroom that I shared with my kid brother. Bradley was 8 this summer, and he was named after the World War II general of the same name. I am sure glad they didn't name him "Omar."
Beyond our bedroom was the "front room." which had the huge piece of furniture with the 8-inch screen that was the source of so many evenings of entertainment.
It was 4 rooms, end-to-end in what was called a "railroad flat" I guess because the rooms were lined up like cars on a train.
My cousins Stephanie and Charlie lived right across the hall from us. Stephanie was 9 and Charlie was 7.
There were two other families in the building with which we were friendly; the Fishers who had Claire (8) and Raymond (6) and the Rossini's who had Gina (7) and Tony (8). On the bottom floor, were the Browns who had a baby and the Goldbergs who were elderly and had no children. I think they owned the building.
As kids, our lives revolved around the street. It was the center of our social universe. In those days, there wasn't much traffic, and you could actually play in the street if you were old enough. The older boys pretty much dominated the blacktop with a stickball game that seemingly went on from sun up to sun down all summer long. At 9 PM all the kids were in and in bed, and the street, as noisy as it was during the day, became quiet at night. I remember lying in bed, a full room from the front room window and hear the adults talking on the stoop three floors down.
The moms seemed to have a routine. In the morning they would shop for whatever it was we were going to have for dinner that night. The butcher was a half block on the cross street, and the grocery store was on the other end of the block. At the right time of year, you could buy vegetables from the man with the push cart, and on Friday afternoon the man with the horse-drawn wagon sold fish!
The other part of the routine was the daily cleaning. Mom washed the linoleum floors every day. She washed clothes every day. She cooked dinner every day. And she did it all between about 1 PM and 4 PM. It was this period that she (and all the other moms, it seems) banished us kids to the street.
You couldn't get in trouble in the street. Someone's mom always had her head out the front room window. If you did something, your mom would find out about it before you could get back upstairs. Everybody's dad worked. Everyone's mom stayed at home. I don't know if the moms worked out a schedule to assure that someone was always on watch, but there they were like prairie dogs popping their heads out of a vertically tipped landscape.
So the 8 of us, Stephanie, Claire, Gina, me and our brothers found ourselves out on the stoop right after lunch every day. Being out was better than being in, and once you got playing, you didn't want to stop for any reason. You lost all track of time until your mom called you in. Everyone's mom had a distinctive voice, and she used it at maximum volume to bring her brood back to the roost.
Playing hard, and losing track of time was particularly hard on the boys. Somewhere along the line, you have to go to the bathroom. None of the kids wanted to stop playing, go upstairs and annoy mom (who probably had a wet floor) just to go to the bathroom. So they had three choices: hold it, do it outside, or do it in your pants.
The younger boys frequently had accidents, and got embarrassed when it showed in their shorts. Other boys picked a space between parked cars and tried to do it as discretely as possible. I don't think there was a girl on our block who hadn't seen a boy pee at least once, so that square in our sex education was checked.
The girls, held it. We seemed to be able to pay more attention.
Raymond and Charlie were habitual wetters. Their moms put them in diapers and it was our jobs as their sisters to watch after them. At first we brought the diapers and stuff down with us, but it made more sense to leave the stuff in the vestibule (that's the entranceway hallway for those of you not familiar with brownstone architecture). We had a small table opposite the mailboxes, and we kept the stuff in the drawers.
So, every day after lunch one of us girls would go down the cellar, pick up a pail of water, and put it on the stoop to put the dirty diapers in. At the beginning of the summer, it was pretty much me helping Stephanie and Claire change their brothers as they needed. Gina was eager to help and we decided to train her too.
After a week or so, we found that Brad and Tony were getting jealous of the treatment the other two boys were getting. Also, they hated having to come "in" to go to the bathroom and were too embarrassed to do it out in the street. They frequently complained that we spent too much time playing with the younger boys and resented that we'd actually stop play with them to attend to our diapering duties.
I jokingly said to my brother, "You want us to diaper you too?" He blushed and stammered a "no" but I could always tell when my brother was lying. I whispered to him, "Come on, it will be our secret. Nobody else has to know."
He looked up and down the block as if people could tell what he was thinking just looking at him.
"Come on," I urged, I've seen mom change you before. It's no big deal.
"OK," he agreed.
Although it was "no big deal" all of us girls decided to attend my brother's first diapering. Gina and Claire seemed particularly interested. Clair was in Brad's class in school. Gina was surprised that an older boy would let her see him like this.
The deed done, we sent him back out onto the street. If you knew what to look for, you could tell that there was something under his shorts. Brad starting wearing looser shorts to accommodate the thickness. I smirked at that thought. I was trying to wear tighter and shorter shorts, and my brother was going in the opposite direction.
Brad seemed to be relieved of the responsibility of holding it. And relieved is exactly what he got. We made sure to change him out just before mom called us, and his diaper was almost always wet.
Tony wondered how his playmate was able to go all those hours without having to go "in." That was the undoing of our plot. We had just gotten Brad onto the changing table when Tony came in. At first he was in too much shock to say anything, then he just broke out laughing, "So that's how you're doing it!"
I was quick to seize the opportunity, "We can fix you up too. Wouldn't you like that?"
His sister was jumping up and down in anticipation. Tony just flapped his mouth, so I filled in the words for him. "Come on. Brad does it. You can do it too. Nobody else has to know. Just think of it. No more going "in;" you can stay out and play all day."
My argument worked. We soon had four diapered boys under our command. And the summer was just beginning! Gina in particular felt so grown up diapering her older brother.
At first we were changing the boys as they needed it, but after a while we decided that we might as well change them out on a schedule so we wouldn't have to interrupt our play to do it. We decided that we'd make a game out of it.
We used the time-honored "paper, scissors, rock" to determine the order in which we girls would diaper for the afternoon. Once establishing who goes first for the girls, we had to decide who would go first for the boys.
To do this, we invented the "Diaper Game."
The game would start with the four of us facing each other in a square with our hands at our sides. The trick was how we clapped each others' hands as we spelled out the word "diaper" D-I-A---P-E-R over and over again. It was sort of a four-girl version of patty cake. Each time we'd spell it faster and faster until we'd make a mistake.
On "D" we clap our own hands On "I" we clap both hands of the girl opposite us, straight across, right hand to left hand and vice versa. On "A" we clap the girl to the right with the right hand and the girl to the left with our left hand. On "P" we clap across from us again, left hand to left hand On "E" we clap across from us again, right hand to right hand On "R" we clap our own hands behind our back.
We only had four boys so we assigned "D," "I," "A," and "P." to Brad, Charlie, Raymond and Tony respectively. If we screwed up on "E" or "R" it was a "do over" and we'd start all over again. The letter of the word determined which boy got diapered, and the round at which we screwed up determined how many diapers we got to put on him.
The next thing to decide was how many pins to put in the diaper.
The girl whose turn it was to diaper would bounce a rubber ball to the cadence of "Pins and needles, needles and pins. How many pins do we put on him?"
She'd bounce the ball and catch it on the first bounce, and we'd shout "ones-ises."
She'd bounce it again, clap her hands and catch it on the first bounce and we'd shout "twos-ises."
She'd bounce it again, clap her hands, clap her hands under her right leg and catch it on the first bounce, and we'd shout "threes- ies."
Four was clap, clap under right leg, clap. Five was clap, clap under right leg, clap, clap under left leg. Six was clap, clap under right leg, clap, clap under left leg, clap. Seven was clap, clap under right leg, clap, clap under left leg, clap, clap behind her back. Eight was clap under right leg, clap, clap under left leg, clap, clap behind her back, turn around once.
Most of the time we wound up with 6 pins. On a really good day I could do 8, but that rarely happened.
Then came the most fun part, and that was to call the boy "in" for his diapering. We'd go down to where the boy was playing and chant, "Who poops? Who poops? Who poops, two scoops?" Then the girl whose turn it was to diaper would call out his name. For example, "I pick Tony. Tony baby, Tony boy, let me change your diaper; let me be your joy. Pee-pee diapers, pee-pee pants, you're the boy that we'll make dance."
We got our own little following. When kids saw us four girls approaching one of the boys, they knew that a show was just to begin and gather around. Some of the girls approached us and asked us if we really diapered our brothers. Our answer was "What do you think?"
Well, the boys' secret couldn't be kept for long. Some of the older boys heard our taunting, and decided to check things out for themselves. They distracted our boys and got the jump on them. Holding them down they pulled down their pants. All the kids gathered around and laughed.
I was outraged, I ran down the block as soon as I saw what was happening and threw my full 87 pounds on this huge teenage goon. I beat upon him with my fists and yelled at him to stop. I'm not even sure he knew I was there. Eventually, the bullies let the boys up and we retreated to our end of the block.
By this time all four boys were crying. We sat on the stoop and put our arms around them. A couple of kids rode by on their bikes or ran by and yelled insults, but mostly the kids went back to playing. One boy stopped by and gave his condolences. He said he understood, and didn't think the boys were weird or anything, but was very quick to point out that *he* didn't wear diapers.
Some of the girls stopped by and wanted to know if they could watch us change the boys. We told them that it was a private club and that if they wanted to join, they had to bring their own diapers, and their own boys to diaper. Over the course of the next couple of days, we had enough boys to spell out a "full" D-I-A-P-E-R.
It was a great summer. We changed the boys at least twice every afternoon. Most of the time we played other games just like all the other kids on the block. The rest of the kids got used to the diaper boys, and just sort of accepted them for what they were.
We girls went up in status as THE girls who diapered the diaper boys. Other girls were jealous of us, and other boys held us in awe.
But all good things come to an end. Summer ended and the school year began. Playtime was limited to the few hours between getting home from school and dinner, which for this blue-collar neighborhood was always early.
We moved away to Long Island to a "real" house just after Christmas. I lost track of Claire and Gina. Stephanie still visited with Chuck (as he wanted to be called), but that was pretty much limited to family gatherings around the holidays.
Even now as adults, Stephanie and I share our memories of our diapering summer. Chuck remembers his last summer in diapers with fond memories too, although even to this day after decades to get over it, he still blushes just a little bit. If Stephanie and I giggle just a little, he forgives us.