This is one of the old ones from a certain site that is (thankfully) no longer with us but I always liked this one and two or three others. I think the original author was a fellow by the name of Donnie_M72
My Grandma Hester was a formidable lady. She was my dad's mother and my only living grandparent. Many times, while growing up, I saw her cause grown men to cower under her disapproving glare. Don't get me wrong. She wasn't mean-spirited. She just believed that her ways were the best. That's why she was rarely willing to compromise. Since she knew that she was doing the right thing, why change? I liked her despite the fact that sometimes her ways were not how I wanted to do things. All in all, though, she was fun to be with.
My name is Walter Andrew Pearlsmith. The year was 1962. I had just finished seventh grade and would turn thirteen soon. I was on the smallish side (4' 3" [1.28 m.]), the smallest member of my class. My general health was good but I think my parents were worried about me. They were both above average in height and I didn't seem to be keeping up with my peers in that department. They had discussed this with my pediatrician who assured them that nothing was wrong. He advised them to be patient.
My grandmother was also a tall woman for her generation. I guess she must have been about 5' 9" [1.75 m.]. She was born in 1896 and was very vigorous all her life. This was a time when many people thought that ladies past a certain age should stay at home and wait for death. Not her. Many of her friends clucked their tongues over the things she did, while at the same time taking great delight in listening to her stories. They probably wished that they had half her courage and joie-de-vivre.
Summer vacation was just a few days old. I came in from playing baseball with my friends to find my grandmother helping my mom shuck peas for dinner.
"Ah, there you are Walter. Come give grandma Hester a kiss," she said as I entered the kitchen.
At this time in my life I hated being called Walter. My friends tried to convince me that it wasn't so bad. I could have been named Waldo or something even worse. Besides, all my friends called me Wally, which was OK with me. Anyway, I greeted my grandmother and, following her instructions, sat down at the table with them.
"Walter," she continued (ignoring my cringe), "your mother and I have been talking about your summer activities. It doesn't seem that you have much planned yet."
I wondered if my mom knew where my grandmother was going with this but she merely smiled at me without saying anything.
"I have a proposal to make. I have already talked it over with your father and mother. They have given preliminary approval to my plan but the final decision will be yours alone. I know that young boys don't generally like hanging around with older people but how would you like to come to Europe with me this summer?"
I was stunned. I had never imagined such a thing. None of my friends had ever gone to Europe. I didn't hesitate very long.
"Yes!" I practically screamed. "Can I? Really?" I asked my mother.
"Grandma Hester already told you that the decision is completely yours," she reminded me.
"Oh, yeah. I forgot. Can I go tell my friends now?" I asked enthusiastically.
"No, Wally," my mother answered. "It's too close to dinnertime. You'll have to wait until after dinner. Besides, you and Grandma have lots of things to talk about first. You don't even know what kind of a trip she's planned for you."
My grandmother was sitting there beaming. I think that my enthusiasm had really touched her.
"Do you want to know what I've planned?" my grandmother asked. "Nothing is final yet, so you can tell me if there are certain things that you might want to change."
This was really exciting. I practically never got to give my option on stuff. I was all-ears as she began speaking.
"I know that you've never flown before, so the first thing we're going to do is fly to New York."
"On a jet?" I interrupted. (Jet travel was just a few years old and still very expensive.)
"Yes, that's right. We'll spend two days in New York and see some of the sights. Would you like to see Times Square, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty?" she asked.
"Yes!" I screamed again.
"Don't shout, dear," she admonished me gently. "Now where was I? …Oh, yes, after two days in New York, we'll take the SS America to Southampton, England. We'll catch a train to London and spend five days there. Then it's off by boat-train to France. We'll tour France extensively. (I knew what that was all about. My Uncle Carl had died in Europe during World War II. My grandmother wanted me to see the important battle sights and she wanted to visit his gravesite again.) Then we will go to Switzerland and return to France. Lastly, we'll board the SS France in Le Havre and sail back to New York via Southampton. What do you think?"
I couldn't think straight at all. I was completely bowled over by the extent of her plans.
"We're really going to do all of that?" I asked incredulously.
"If you want," she answered simply.
"Wow," I said before falling silent.
"Grandma Hester," my mother said laughingly, "you have just witnessed history. Your grandson is completely speechless for the first time since he was a baby."
My grandmother laughed and ruffled my hair.
"He's a good boy. Aren't you, Walter?"
I blushed because my grandmother was treating me like a little kid again. Also, my mother's reference to my babyhood brought a tender subject to mind. I still had a bedwetting problem. It seems that my internal organs were growing slower than the rest of my body. I was able to stay dry during the day if I could get to the bathroom every two hours or so. At night, forget it. I don't think I had ever woken up dry in the morning. We were still in the pre-disposable diaper age. Major pharmacies and department store catalogues still offered a variety of 'hygienic garments' designed for older bedwetting kids. Experience had taught my family and me that only the most extreme protection would work. This meant that the thickest diapers and sturdiest plastic pants were a necessity. Even though I had never been 'dry' at night, the thought of other people finding out that I wet the bed was upsetting.
"What about my diapers?" I asked fearfully.
My mother and grandmother looked at each other. My grandmother sighed.
"I know that you're embarrassed by them," she began, "but there's no need to be. Hotel laundries and shipboard stewards won't care. They've seen this before, I'm sure. Whether you believe it or not, there are a lot of boys your age who need special protection at night."
I had heard all this before. It's not that I didn't believe her; it's just that I felt so alone. No one else I knew needed diapers.
"Yeah, I know," I said gloomily.
"Good," my grandmother said, closing off the conversation. "Now, we only have ten days to get ready. Your mother and I have already started a list of things you'll need. Luckily, your passport papers are already taken care of."
"They are?" I asked in surprise.
"Yes, honey," my mother explained, "grandma started planning this trip last February. We took care of the paperwork weeks ago in case the trip really happened."
For the next week and a half I was the envy of the neighborhood. As I learned more about the trip, I passed it on to my friends. In all, the trip was going to last just over six weeks. My mom and grandmother went crazy buying me clothes and other stuff for the trip. They wanted me to go with them to the stores but I rebelled and they left me alone.
Part 2 – Plans Initiated
Our departure day finally arrived. We had to get up early we had a 7:30am flight. I barely slept the night before so I was pretty tired and very excited. I took a quick shower and returned to my room. My mom was standing next to my bed, a fresh diaper laid out
"Aw, mom, do I have to?" I whined.
"Honey, it's a two hour flight, not counting waiting at the airport, and there could be delays. Do you want to take the chance of having an accident in public?"
"But I won't have an accident," I protested.
"Can you guarantee that?"
Of course I couldn't. Besides, traveling in diapers was nothing new. I was making a fuss because I had hoped that everyone would have forgotten about my need for diapers while traveling. I bowed to the inevitable and allowed my mother to diaper me.
In 1962, people got all dressed up to travel. Luckily, my grandmother had told my mother that she didn't believe I needed to wear a shirt and tie. It was going to be hot and an open-collar shirt would be fine.
"Let me get the rest of your clothes. I ironed them last night. Your shoes and socks are on the bed."
I reached over and picked up a pair of khaki colored socks. They were knee-high in length. The shoes weren't really shoes, but sandals. My mother walked back into the room with my shirt on a hanger.
"Why do I have to wear these?" I said pointing to the socks and sandals.
"You're going to Europe, honey. That's how all the boys dress. Now hurry up and get them on."
I didn't want to argue so I put them on wondering why knee-length socks were such a big deal. My pants would cover them. Right?
My mother handed me my shirt and I put it on.
"Where are my pants?" I asked.
"Right here," she answered, handing me the shortest pair of shorts I had ever seen.
"I can't wear those! They're way too short," I protested.
"Your grandmother selected all these clothes for you. She's been to Europe before and she knows what's appropriate. Now put them on."
"But everybody will laugh at me in New York."
"No they won't. New York is a huge place. People from all over the world go there. No one will give you a second glance. If picking out the right clothes was so important, you should have come shopping with us."
The subject was closed. I put the shorts on and walked over to the mirror. I looked totally dorky. At least no one in New York knew who I was.
We didn't have a lot of luggage because my mother and grandmother had packed two steamer trunks the previous week and sent them by railroad directly to the steamship company. The stuff we had with us would be enough for our short stay in New York. I started wondering about the rest of the clothes that they had bought for me.
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. My dad had gotten us checked in and we were waiting for our flight to get called.
"Walter, you should sit up straight, especially in public. It looks slovenly to be slouched the way your are."
"But I'm tired, grandma," I said.
"You can still sit up straight," she admonished me, "but if you want to show off your plastic pants to the world, go ahead."
I looked down at my lap. I was horrified to see my shimmering plastic pants sticking way out from my shorts. I quickly adjusted my clothes and looked around to see if anybody else had noticed. I didn't see anyone watching me. I sighed in relief.
The flight was glorious. The day was clear and the ground was visible all the way. About forty-five minutes into the flight I became drowsy and fell asleep. I woke up as the stewardess was asking my grandmother if she wanted anything. My grandmother said that she was fine. I was still half asleep so I pretended not to hear them.
"We'll be landing in about twenty minutes," she stewardess said. "You can use the galley area if you need to change your grandson's diapers."
My heart started beating furiously. She had seen my plastic pants! I knew that I was blushing. Worst of all, I could feel that I had wet in my sleep. Suddenly, I felt my grandmother stick her finger inside the leg opening of my plastic pants.
"Yes, I think I'd better wake him. He's soaked."
I was mortified as the stewardess led us to the galley. She must have sensed my embarrassment.
"Don't feel bad," she said. "I've only been working for two years and I've already seen seven or eight boys your age who needed to wear diapers. Some of them were even ten or eleven years old."
My grandmother cut her off.
"Yes, thank you," she said. "I'd better get started."
The stewardess closed the curtain to give us some privacy.
"Grandma, she thinks I'm seven or eight years old," I sobbed.
"Nonsense," my grandmother said, "she's just inexperienced with children. Now, let's get you into a dry diaper."
After I had been changed, the stewardess came back and asked if I wanted a treat. I declined.
I was fascinated by New York. The tall buildings, the subways, and the millions of people were overwhelming. We visited the Statue of Liberty first. We took the first boat out and were back just around lunchtime. We ate at the Automat and then went to the top of the Empire State Building. On the way back down to the lobby I told my grandmother that I needed to use a bathroom. Actually, I had needed one for quite some time but I didn't want to miss even one second of the sights so I had kept quiet.
We got off the elevator and my grandmother asked for the nearest men's room. We were directed around the corner. The bathroom was being cleaned. My grandmother approached the janitor who had just finished mopping the floor. He was firm in stating that I couldn't go in. The floor was wet and I might slip and fall. My grandmother could see the urgency in my face and she tried to convince him that I would be careful. He seemed on the verge of agreeing when I couldn't hold it any longer. The pee started running rapidly down my legs and onto the floor. My underpants, shorts, socks, and sandals were soaked. The janitor saw it before my grandmother did.
"Aw, gee, lady," he complained, "look at that. Now, I've got to clean up that mess, too."
I was desperately trying not to cry.
"Well," my grandmother shot back, "if you had listened to me in the first place none of this would have happened. You have only yourself to blame for the extra work… Come along, Walter."
As I squished across the lobby, I dreaded the thought of going outside in wet pants. We got to the doors and she stopped to rummage around in her purse. She found what she was looking for and we went outside. The sun was dazzling after the semi-darkness of the lobby. My grandmother hailed a passing cab. I was wondering how I would sit down without wetting the seat. My grandmother had it all figured out. She opened up her plastic rain bonnet for me to sit on. The cab driver looked like he was going to say something but he held back when he saw that his seat cushions were being protected.
"Where to?" he asked.
"Do you know where there is a medical supply pharmacy?" she asked.
I guessed that my grandmother was going to make me wear diapers for the rest of the time we were in New York. The cab drove a few blocks and stopped.
"Please keep circling the block until we get out," my grandmother told the cab driver.
I wanted to protest that I couldn't go in there in my wet clothes but she had already grabbed my hand. She tugged me toward the entrance. Once inside she spoke to a clerk who led us to the youth size diapers. He pointed out the available options and my grandmother picked out two dozen thick diapers and plastic pants. It seemed to me that she was going overboard but I didn't dare contradict her.
"Do you sell other clothing?" my grandmother asked the clerk.
"No, lady, I'm sorry, we don't," he answered. "Oh… wait a minute. We do sell plain white gym socks. Will that help?"
"Yes, it will. I'll take a pair… Now, is there a place I can change my grandson into dry clothes?"
He directed us to a bathroom at the rear of the store. I had to stand as my grandmother cleaned me and got me into a dry diaper and plastic pants. I have to admit that it felt good after the clamminess of my wet underpants and shorts. At that moment I was too nervous to realize that these diapers were much thicker than what I had previously worn. She handed me the new socks to put on.
"OK, let's go find the clerk and pay for your diapers."
"I can't go out there like this!" I screeched. "Can't I at least put my shorts back on."
"Absolutely not," she said pointedly. "They're soaked and they smell. Now, stop this foolishness and come on."
I nervously followed behind her. There were other people in the store. What did they think of me dressed only in my new diaper, plastic pants, and socks? She paid for the purchases and asked for a bag (which the clerk lined with heavily waxed wrapping paper to prevent leakage) in which to put my wet clothes. She sent me back to the bathroom to retrieve them. When I returned, my grandmother was standing by the door. I saw the cab pull up. I dashed across the store, bumping into a startled customer. Luckily, my grandmother didn't notice or I'm sure she would have made me go back and apologize.
Back in the cab I felt relatively safe. Now I dreaded getting out at the hotel. I tried to block out the picture of me dressed in a diaper and plastic pants riding up the elevator and walking down the long corridor to our suite.
"I was going to take you clothes shopping tomorrow, but we may as well do it now since you obviously need something to wear."
She rattled off an address. In a few minutes the cabbie pulled up in front of a small, exclusive-looking establishment.
"Here you go, lady. Should I drive around the block again?"
"Yes, please," she answered. Turning to me she said, "No nonsense from you. Leave the packages here and let's go inside."
Once again I was led out onto the sidewalk, plastic pants fully exposed. This time, two girls were walking down the street with their mother. They grew wide-eyed and giggled loudly as they saw me.
"Girls," their mother said, "that's very rude. I'm sure that that boy is already quite embarrassed. Now behave yourselves."
"Why is he dressed like that?" the younger of the girls asked.
"I don't know. He probably had an accident… Come along, it's none of our business."
I wanted to melt into the sidewalk.
We entered the store accompanied by the jingling of a small bell. The front area was filled with girls' clothes so we went through to the back to the boys' department. A clerk came out from a back room. She didn't miss a beat as she looked from me to my grandmother.
"Ah, I see we have an emergency. How can I help you?"
My grandmother went on at length about my accident at the Empire State Building, our stop at the pharmacy for diapers, and how I would need clothes for Europe that would fit over my diapers.
"I have to wear diapers all the time?" I asked through tear-filled eyes.
"Listen to me, Walter. Didn't you use your diapers on the plane yesterday? Did you or did you not just wet your pants?"
"But it won't happen again. I promise."
"I'm sorry, dear, but the evidence is conclusive." Turning to the lady, she continued, "What can you show us?"
She measured me and asked how old I was. I saw the surprise in her eyes when my grandmother told her that I would soon be thirteen.
"Since you're heading for Europe, am I correct in assuming that you would like European styles?"
At this point I didn't care what they picked. I just wanted to get my diaper and plastic pants covered. She was just beginning to explain various styles when the tinkling of the bell announced another customer.
"We'll be fine back here," my grandmother told her. "Please, take care of your other customer."
She walked away and I heard a mother and daughter talking to the lady. The lady went into the back room and came back carrying a fancy party dress. The mother and daughter 'oohed' and 'aahed' at the creation. The girl went into a dressing room to try it on.
"How are you getting along back here?"
As far as I was concerned we weren't 'getting along' at all. My grandmother was ignoring my protests about the clothes she was picking out for me. She had chosen some 'play outfits' of shorts and t-shirt that I wouldn't have been caught dead wearing when I was six. Also, she had found some more of those incredibly short shorts like I had been wearing this morning, only with a larger waist to accommodate my diapers.
"Just fine," my grandmother answered. "Now where are your socks?"
I already had socks on— why did we have to look at socks? I was getting more and more nervous about that girl seeing me.
"Grandma, can't I please put on some clothes now?"
"Of course, dear, we're almost finished," she said ignoring me once again.
She was standing in front of a case filled with knee-high socks.
"What a lovely selection," she commented to the clerk. "Come here, Walter. Which do you prefer?"
"I guess the white ones are OK," I answered hurriedly.
"You haven't even looked at the others," she admonished me. "Come here and look at these socks."
I put down the pile of stuff she had picked out and was heading toward my grandmother when a door opened. The girl walked out wearing her new dress. She called out for Mrs. Talbot (the clerk turned out to be the owner of the store) to come and see.
"I'm over here, Cynthia," she answered.
The girl rounded a corner and stood right in front of me. I froze in terror. My bladder released and I saw the girl focus her eyes on the front of my rapidly filling diaper. I blacked out.
I awoke to soothing words from my grandmother. I was lying a couch at the back of the store. Mrs. Talbot and Cynthia were with her. I felt myself getting red again as I became aware of my wet diaper.
"Don't move; lie back," my grandmother advised.
Mrs. Talbot removed a cloth from my forehead and replaced it with a cool one.
"Is he going to be alright?" Cynthia asked.
"Yes, dear. Thank you for your help," my grandmother answered. "You were very lucky that Cynthia caught you before you hit the floor," my grandmother said to me. "You could have gotten a nasty bruise."
This was getting worse and worse. Not only did this girl see me wearing a diaper but she also 'saved' me when I fainted.
"Thank you," I croaked.
"That's OK," Cynthia answered. "Besides you're kind of cute in your diapers," she giggled.
Cynthia's mother coughed and announced that it was time for them to leave. I felt better and wanted to get dressed before someone else came into the shop. This time my grandmother handed me some clothes and told me to go to the dressing room. I looked at what she had given me. It was a 'play outfit,' the worst of the bunch. I put the shirt on and looked at myself in the mirror. It was yellow with zigzag stripes in various shades of green running across the chest. I put on the accompanying yellow shorts. They had an elastic waist; the front was smooth and accentuated the bulkiness of my diaper. Lastly, I noticed that there were no pockets.
"Grandma," I called out from the dressing room.
"Yes, dear," she answered.
I opened the door a crack.
"I can't wear these things. They make me look five years old!" I whimpered.
"Come out here and let me see. Nonsense," she said looking me over, "you look very handsome. Now hurry up and put on these socks."
She handed me white knee-length socks. I went back into the dressing room in a daze. I put them on and walked back into the store. At least no one else had come in. Mrs. Talbot measured me for shoes. When I saw the yellow round-toed t-strap shoes I rebelled but my grandmother's look told me to sit still.
"These are quite common in Europe," Mrs. Talbot said as she fastened them on my feet. "They're very hard to find here in the U.S."
Wasn't I lucky!
My grandmother told me to wait outside for the cab to come around again. I didn't welcome the idea of standing out on the sidewalk, but I had no choice. At least this was happening in a city where no one knew me. The cab finally came by and stopped. The driver gave me a funny look before I went back inside to get my grandmother. He thought I looked really stupid, too.
Back at the hotel, my grandmother was unpacking all my new stuff. It was apparent that I was in for a lot more of the same. There were four more 'play outfits'- green. tan, and two in shades of blue. I also had four new pairs of shorts and several pairs of knee socks in white and pastel colors. Lastly, I noticed two shoe boxes.
"How come I got more shoes?" I asked.
"So that you'll have something that matches your other outfits. Don't worry, they're in the same style as what you're wearing."
That wasn't what I was worried about.
My grandmother announced that it was time to get cleaned up and changed for dinner. She ordered me into the tub. As soon as I got out she had another new diaper waiting for me. She had laid out a suit for me to wear— a suit with short pants. I groaned as I put it on. At least the pants were longer than what I had been wearing and they did have a fly (not that I could actually use it while wearing diapers and plastic pants). I put the dark gray socks on and reached for the shoes. "No way," I thought to myself. A few minutes later my grandmother was ready to leave.
"Put your shoes on, Walter, we have a reservation downstairs in ten minutes."
"I won't wear those shoes," I said between gritted teeth. "They're too babyish."
"Nonsense," she answered sharply, "gentlemen always wear black patent leather shoes with formal attire. Your suit isn't exactly formal wear but they match just fine. Now, stop arguing and get moving."
I don't want to say that I was afraid of my grandmother but you have to understand that there was something about her presence that commanded respect and obedience. Maybe it was because she was so tall and I was so small. Whatever, I reluctantly got up and put the shoes on. Before leaving I looked at myself in the mirror. My black patent leather t-strap shoes seemed so conspicuous.
A couple and their son were already in the elevator when it stopped for us. The kid seemed to be about my age. He smirked at the way I was dressed. His dad grabbed him by the collar and whispered for him to behave. He roughly disengaged himself from his father's grasp and continued making faces at me. In the meantime, my grandmother and the kid's mother had started a conversation. Before we reached the lobby, they knew that each of us was twelve years old and that we were all sailing on the SS America in two days. That was all I needed. This kid would probably torment me all the way across the Atlantic.
There was a line of people waiting to be seated in the dining room. My grandmother introduced herself and me. The other people introduced themselves as Bert and Margaret Appleton and their son, Bert Jr. My grandmother suggested that we have dinner together. I was appalled. I didn't want to be the butt of this kid's insults all night. I hoped that the Appletons would refuse but they didn't. Bert Jr. and I were told to sit next to each other. He glared at me and I glared at him. Eventually we started talking about stuff, sports mostly. At one point he asked why I wore such funny clothes. I told him that my grandmother made me wear this stuff. I didn't want to complain about it too much, what with my grandmother sitting right there and everything.
After dinner my grandmother invited the Appletons up to the suite for an after dinner drink. Moments after we got there my grandmother remembered that she had wanted to buy an evening newspaper. She sent me back down to the lobby. Bertie (as I was now calling him) came with me.
We were in the elevator on the way back up when three troublemakers got on at the fourth floor. They immediately zeroed in on my funny shoes.
"Hey, kid, where'd you get the baby shoes?" one of them asked.
I didn't answer. The seconds ticked by and we were only up to the eighth floor. (They were going all the way to the twentieth.)
"He asked you a question," one of the others challenged. "Tell your friend he shouldn't insult us like this," he said turning toward Bertie.
"He's not my friend," Bertie answered.
Technically, I guess he was right. We had met only two hours earlier.
The doors to the elevator opened. Bertie and I got out. I got scared as the other guys started following us. Bertie must have been frightened, too, because he took off in the opposite direction, away from my grandmother's suite. I tried to run to the room. The stupid shoes had leather soles and heels and I slipped on the carpeting. They caught up to me and grabbed me.
"How come you act so snooty? Do you think that your fancy suit and your fancy shoes are going to protect you?" the first kid asked. "You think you're better than us, don't you?"
Before I could answer, he sucker punched me in the stomach. I doubled over in pain. One of the other kids whirled me around and pushed me into the wall. I hit it with full force. My nose started bleeding.
"Let's get out of here," the first kid said.
They ran back toward the elevator. I tried to stop the bleeding before going back to my grandmother's suite but it was impossible. My shirt and coat were covered in blood. Bertie came up behind me and caused me to jump.
"Sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"S'okay," I said sniffling back some of the blood dripping out of my nose. "My grandmother's going to kill me."
"No she won't," he said as we walked together.
My grandmother didn't kill me but she got very upset at the sight I presented. Mr. Appleton called for some ice and a doctor. In the meantime, my grandmother undressed me and made me lie down on the bed. Mrs. Appleton got some towels and held them firmly against my nose in an effort to slow the bleeding. The doctor arrived within minutes and assured my grandmother that nothing had been broken. In fact, he predicted that there would probably be very little bruising or swelling if I kept an ice pack on it for the next hour or so.
The doctor left and the hotel manager called. (When Mr. Appleton called the hotel operator to get the doctor, he had told her that someone had been attacked in the twelfth floor hallway.) Naturally, the manager was concerned that my grandmother might blame the hotel. He wanted to come up right away to talk to her. My grandmother was very solicitous but also smart enough not to sign the release papers he had brought. She was not stupid; she would keep her options open in case complications set in later on. (As a matter of fact, nothing ever came of it.)
Now that things were quiet again, Bertie asked if he could see me. I was lying on the bed, an ice pack against my nose. I think that Bertie was feeling guilty about leaving me alone with those guys.
"Are you going to tell your grandmother everything that happened?"
What he really wanted to know was whether or not I would say that he had run away.
"Nah," I assured him, "I don't want to think about it again."
He breathed a sigh of relief. We talked for a few more minutes. I got drowsy and I guess I fell asleep. A little while later (I think), a loud voice woke me up. It was Mr. Appleton.
"… so you just walked the other way out of the elevator and left Walter to face those guys all by himself. Is that what you're saying?"
"But it wasn't my fault. There were three of them," Bertie tried to explain.
(I could have told him that the 'it-wasn't-my-fault' excuse wouldn't work.)
"So what? You could have made noise. Started banging on doors. Called for help."
"But they would have thought that I was chicken," Bertie answered defensively.
"And running away doesn't make you chicken?"
Mrs. Appleton's voice cut in but I didn't hear what she said. A few minutes later I heard them leave. A little while after that I realized that everybody had seen my diapers and plastic pants.
Part 3 – Plans Altered
The next day was our last in New York. I woke up early. I wondered if my face showed any marks from last night's incident. I ran to the bathroom and was relieved to see that there wasn't any bruising, although the left side of my nose felt tender and was slightly swollen. My grandmother's appearance behind me in the mirror startled me.
"I see you're feeling better. No bruising," she said examining my face. "That's good."
"Yeah. Are we still going to the Museum of Natural History?"
I had been looking forward to this the most. I had seen a film in school about all the neat dinosaur bones and other stuff they had.
"Let's get cleaned up and dressed. We'll leave right after breakfast."
I was happy that my grandmother didn't lay out one of the 'play outfits' for me to wear. I nonetheless had to wear knee socks and European style shorts, but at least these had a belt and fly. On the subway, I had to be careful not to let my plastic pants show. I was kind of glad when my grandmother made me give up my seat to a lady. Standing up made it a lot easier to hide what I was wearing.
I really enjoyed the museum. It contained all kinds of stuff that I had never imagined. Only once did my grandmother have to calm me down when I got over-excited. She did this by pointing out that my plastic pants showed every time I leaned over to get a closer look at something. I don't know if anyone else noticed. I sure hope not.
We had spent three hours there when my grandmother announced that it was time for lunch. I suddenly became aware that my diaper was wet. We hadn't brought any extras and I was afraid that she would get angry if my plastic pants started leaking. While I was trying to figure out how to broach the subject my grandmother saved me the trouble.
"Do you have something to tell me, Walter?"
"Uh, yes, grandma. We didn't bring any extra diapers. What if I need to change?"
"Are your diapers wet already?"
"Yes," I admitted sheepishly.
"Well, then, it's good that you were wearing them isn't it?"
"Yeah, I guess so," I admitted. "But what will I do if I need a change, if they get too wet?"
"That's all taken care of, dear. Don't worry. Now let's go meet our party for lunch."
She hadn't told me about meeting other people for lunch. I knew enough not to ask her who we were meeting. If she had wanted me to know, she would have told me. I wondered if whoever it was had brought extra diapers with them. But why would they? Plus, I wasn't too thrilled about even more people knowing about my diapers.
We got to the museum restaurant and I saw Mr. & Mrs. Appleton waiting for us. I wondered where Bertie was.
"Bertie is holding a table for us," his mother said. "He's been sulking since last night so I'm afraid he's not very good company right now."
We went inside and found Bertie sitting alone. I took the chair next to him.
"Hi," I said.
"Hi," he answered sullenly, not looking up from the napkin he was fiddling with.
I figured that I had gotten him into trouble so I tried to make up for it.
"I'm sorry if I got you into trouble."
Bertie didn't answer me but Mr. Appleton did.
"There's no need for you to apologize, Walter. Bertie's problems are of his own making. You didn't contribute to them at all."
"Then how come I have to wear diapers and these stupid clothes like him?" Bertie spat out.
"We've been over this a hundred times already. We don't want to hear about again. Walter has nothing to do with it."
I was confused. I looked more closely at Bertie's clothes. He was wearing a 'play outfit' similar to the ones my grandmother had forced on me. Had my grandmother bought me 'play outfits' because I was being punished, too? Bertie noticed that I was checking out his clothes.
"Here, you may as well see these, too," he said jutting out his leg from under the tablecloth.
He was wearing yellow patent leather t-strap shoes that matched his shirt and shorts. And, just like me, he found it impossible to keep his plastic pants hidden under the babyish shorts.
My grandmother saw my look of confusion and embarrassment.
"Now, Walter, you know that wearing diapers is not a punishment for you. I believe that Mr. & Mrs. Appleton are trying to teach Bertie that he needs to learn how to respect people who are different. Perhaps Bertie will want to explain it to you someday. Now, let's all enjoy lunch."
My grandmother had just displayed another of her masterful characteristics. On the surface, it seemed that she had just said something very important but I was darned if I could figure it out. For the moment, I hoped that Bertie and I could become friends, especially since we would be together on the boat for the next several days. As far as the clothes went, I couldn't figure that out either.
Bertie was silent during all of lunch, which was kind of boring for me. It was decided that we would go back to the hotel and then go to Central Park for an afternoon stroll.
My grandmother changed me into fresh diapers and gave me a choice of clothes to wear. It wasn't really a big choice: a yellow 'play outfit' similar to Bertie's or a blue one. My grandmother made it clear that if I chose the yellow, I would wear yellow t-strap shoes and white knee socks jut like Bertie's. All things being equal, I would have chosen the blue set but I wanted to make Bertie feel better so I chose the yellow.
Riding down the elevator to meet the Appletons I became concerned that Bertie might have changed into something else. My fears were unfounded. He was standing sullenly next to his mom and dad wearing the same clothes as before. Except for a difference in the patterns of our shirts, we looked like twins.
Bertie was staring down at the carpet so the first glimpse he had of me was of my white knee socks and yellow t-strap shoes. He looked up, surprise written all over his face.
"You, too?" he asked.
I shrugged my shoulders and said, "I guess we'd better learn to live with it."
Central Park was right across the street from our hotel. Mr. Appleton seemed to know a lot about its history but Bertie and I didn't pay much attention.
"Did your grandmother make you wear those clothes?" Bertie asked.
"Sort of," I answered.
I explained the choice I had been given. I told him that I didn't want him to feel alone so I chose to be dressed like him. He remained silent for almost a minute.
"Why?" he finally asked.
"Why what?" I asked back.
"Why do you care whether I fell alone or not?"
"Every night, when I go to sleep, I feel alone because I don't know anyone else my age who has to wear diapers to bed. At the restaurant you looked really sad. I wanted to do something to cheer you up. Are you still mad at me?"
"No, I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at them," he said rolling his eyes toward his parents.
Seemingly out of nowhere he asked, "Can you run fast?"
"Yeah, I think so," I answered.
"Then try to catch me," he said taking off down the footpath.
His mother and my grandmother screamed at us about not getting our new clothes dirty and, especially, not scuffing our new shoes. We pretended not to hear them, although we were very careful not to scuff our shoes lest we be given something even worse to wear.
When we got back to the hotel I was surprised to find all of our stuff packed up. There was also a large suitcase I had not seen before.
"We bought so many things in New York that we needed another suitcase," my grandmother explained.
Although we weren't sailing until the next morning, we would be boarding the ship after dinner. Since our clothes were all packed away, we (and the Appletons) would be eating a light supper in our suite. I resigned myself to being stuck in my yellow t-strap shoes for the rest of the day, but so was Bertie.
The SS America was much grander than I thought it would be. It really was a floating city. I was surprised when my grandmother said that it had seen better days and was no longer considered to be among the best. (The jet age was making the transatlantic steamer a thing of the past and my grandmother wanted me to experience this slower-paced method of travel before it became extinct. In fact, the ship was taken out of U.S. service in 1965.)
Bertie and I were so excited about being onboard that we momentarily forgot how we were dressed. After my grandmother had signed some papers, a British lady greeted her effusively.
"Hester, my dear! How wonderful! Are you seeing someone off or are you making the crossing yourself."
"Agnes," my grandmother answered much less enthusiastically, "what a surprise. Yes, I'm making the crossing with my grandson."
Since Bertie was standing close to my grandmother, the lady pounced on him.
"My, my! Such a handsome little boy! And look at those healthy rosy cheeks," she said pinching his right cheek between her thumb and index finger.
Bertie had his fists balled up at his sides. I thought he was going to haul off and deck her.
"No, Agnes, that's Bertie, my grandson's friend. My grandson is the other young man."
"And so he is! How handsome he is, too."
She began walking toward me, her hand in front of her getting ready to pinch my cheek. I retreated behind my grandmother. (She wasn't going to get me the way she had gotten Bertie.)
"Oh, a shy one, is he? That's alright, dear. I'm sure we'll be great friends before we get to England."
My grandmother introduced Mrs. Agnes Brackenthorpe to the Appletons. She arranged for all of them to come to our cabin in about an hour, after everyone had had time to settle in.
I was very impressed by the suite that my grandmother had reserved. I knew that my grandmother was well off, but I was beginning to suspect that she must be very rich. The suite had three rooms—two bedrooms with a large living room between them. They each had portholes on the outside of the ship. I also remember that all the artwork in the living room had ducks as their motif.
The steward helped us get organized. Much to my relief, my grandmother declined his offer of sending someone to unpack for us. She did, however, place an order for some hors d'oeuvres and drinks for the little party she was hosting.
Mrs. Brackenthorpe turned out to be as big a bore as I thought she would be. I asked my grandmother if Bertie and I could go to my room to play cards.
"I wondered where the beds were," Bertie commented after I had closed the door. "So this is where you and you grandmother are going to sleep?"
"Not really," I answered, "my grandmother's room is on the other side of the sitting room."
"You mean you've got two bedrooms and a living room?" he asked unbelievingly. "Wow. My mom was right. You guys must be really rich."
It was interesting that my own suspicions were being confirmed. I admitted to him that I didn't know how rich my grandmother was. I had never thought about it before. She never acted rich. (By that, I meant that she wasn't a snob.)
"Whatever," Bertie answered. "This is really nice. I wish I didn't have to sleep in the same room as my parents. My dad snores something awful."
I laughed, but I also got a great idea.
"Hey, why don't we ask your parents to let you sleep here with me? I've got a great big bed. There's plenty of room. That way you won't have to listen to your dad snore all night."
"But how do I know that you don't snore worse?" he asked jokingly.
I gave him a punch on the arm and we went out to ask my grandmother and the Appletons for permission. I was happy to see that Mrs. Brackenthorpe was just leaving. My grandmother and Mr. Appleton were all for the idea, but Mrs. Appleton was reluctant.
"Now, Bertie, be reasonable. It's not fair to Mrs. Pearlsmith. She has enough to do already. She doesn't need two boys in diapers."
"Nonsense," my grandmother contradicted her gently, "it wouldn't be any trouble at all. Why don't we try it out for one night? If it's inconvenient, I'll let you know and Bertie can go back to your cabin."
Mrs. Appleton caved in and agreed to the one-night trial. I went with the Appletons to help Bertie bring his stuff to our cabin.
"Here's your toothbrush, and your diapers and plastic pants… and here's something to wear tomorrow. You can wear the same shoes and shorts with this shirt so you'll have fewer things to carry."
"Aww, mom. Can't I wear the brown shorts and shoes tomorrow?"
"Take it or leave it," she answered in a tone that suggested that the discussion was over.
As soon as we got back, my grandmother told us to go into my bedroom and prepare to have our diapers changed. I suddenly got shy about Bertie sharing my room. I should have foreseen that we would get our diapers changed together. I think Bertie felt the same way. We found room in the dresser for his stuff and I began to get out of my clothes. He did the same thing. When we were down to our plastic pants I laid out the changing pad. I got out a fresh diaper and plastic pants for myself and laid them on the bed, too. Lastly, I got out the baby powder and baby oil,
"What's that for?" Bertie asked, pointing to the bottle of baby oil.
I felt myself blushing. "After I'm in my night diapers I'm not allowed to go to the bathroom until they're taken off the next morning. The baby oil is to protect my skin in case I need to poop during the night," I explained.
"You poop your diapers!" Bertie exclaimed.
Before I could answer, my grandmother came into the room.
"Thank you for getting everything ready," she said. "Who's first?"
Bertie and I looked at each other. I could tell that he wanted me to go first. He stood at the side of the bed as my grandmother took off my plastic pants and wet diaper, cleaned my diaper area, applied oil and powder, pinned on the night diaper, and pulled up my plastic pants.
I think Bertie was surprised by how passive I was during the diaper change. He was still new at it and he probably did a lot of fussing. Our fundamental situations were different: I had to wear diapers and he was forced to wear diapers.
"OK, you're ready for your pajamas."
I got up and took pajamas from the dresser but didn't put them on. What would Bertie think when he saw them?
In the meantime, Bertie lied down on the bed. He was nervously watching my grandmother's every move. He shivered slightly every time she touched him. Finally, he was pinned into his night diaper and his plastic pants were pulled up and checked.
"What if I have to go to the bathroom during the night?" he asked her.
"I think Walter has already answered that question, hasn't he?"
He swallowed loudly. My grandmother turned her attention to me.
"Come along. Get your pajamas on."
I unfolded them and waited for Bertie's reaction. I always wore a one-piece sleeper to bed. They didn't have feet in them or anything, but they were embarrassingly babyish. He gave me a funny look and might have said something except that my grandmother turned her attention on him.
"What about you, Bertie? Where are your pajamas?"
"I don't have any pajamas that fit over my diap… that fit. I'll just wear a t-shirt."
"Nonsense," my grandmother answered. "Walter, get some pajamas for Bertie."
It looked like Bertie wanted to protest but my grandmother's tone made him hesitate. Maybe he hadn't figured it out yet, but every time my grandmother said 'nonsense' it was followed by something you didn't want to do but were going to be forced into. I had learned long ago not to fight it.
I had to rummage through the steamer trunk for a few seconds before I found them. My grandmother said we could stay up a while longer if we wanted to. She then left us alone in the bedroom. Bertie was sitting on the bed looking at his sleeper.
"You wear these every night?" he asked.
"Yeah, except for really hot days. That's when I get to sleep in a t-shirt."
"Cool," he said.
Did he mean 'cool' that I got to wear t-shirts on hot nights or 'cool' that I wore sleepers?
We played cards (gin rummy, I think) until my grandmother sent us to bed. She tucked in my side of the bed and then kissed me good night. She did the same thing for Bertie.
A few minutes after the lights were turned out Bernie whispered, "Your grandmother is kind of spooky… the clothes she makes you wear, for instance. And the way she convinced my parents to do the same to me. But I like her anyway."
I puzzled over this last remark long after Bertie had fallen asleep.
The next morning was like a big party. As we left port we got to throw streamers down to the people on the dock. A band was playing and everyone was cheering and yelling. My grandmother let us loose so that we could watch the tugboats pushing us out into the river. For some reason I got a lump in my throat as we sailed past the Statue of Liberty. Funny. It hadn't affected me that way when we visited it just a few days earlier. (Lastly, Bertie's mom gave permission for him to stay in our cabin.)
We scouted out the ship for most of the afternoon (except for when we had to go to lifeboat drill). We noticed that there weren't very many kids on board. We didn't see any boys our age either. We decided that this was good. Older kids probably wouldn't be interested in teasing us over our clothes and we hoped that younger kids wouldn't care. For a while, we were annoyed by the way adults treated us like little kids. Eventually, we decided that we shouldn't fight this. For once, our small size was an advantage. What would they think if they found out that we were almost thirteen years old?
The first disappointment came when my grandmother revealed that dinner on a cruise ship was an adult event. We could have our choice: did we want to eat with the other children in the children's dining room or did we want to eat in my grandmother's cabin? We chose to eat dinner in the cabin.
The second disappointment was when my grandmother said that Mrs. Brackenthorpe's maid, Louise, would spend time with us while the adults went to dinner and to the lounge afterwards.
"But we don't need a babysitter," I protested.
"Nonsense," my grandmother answered. "She's not a babysitter. She'll be your companion and someone to help you get ready for bed."
I looked over to Bertie to see if he understood what my grandmother had just said: Mrs. Brackenthorpe's maid would change our diapers before we went to bed. The fear in his eyes was evident. I tried again to change my grandmother's mind.
"We can do that ourselves. Nothing will happen. We can call a steward if we have an emergency. Or we can use the phone to find you and Bertie's parents."
I should have known better. She wouldn't budge. My grandmother gave Louise all the necessary instructions before leaving for dinner. She was a lot younger than I thought she would be. She told us that she had only been working for Mrs. Brackenthorpe for three years, since she was sixteen. She did a perfect imitation of the old lady that made us laugh. I liked her.
She called the steward and asked if he had any games that we could play. He came back with Monopoly, which we played all evening. About halfway through the game she told us that we should get ready for bed. She sent us to the bedroom to set things up. Bertie and I reluctantly complied. I remember being crimson with embarrassment as she took my diaper off. Her touch was very gentle and, near the end, after she had oiled and powdered me, she even got me to laugh by tickling me under the arms. Bertie seemed much more relaxed than I had been. She tickled him anyway. We finished the game dressed in our sleepers. Bertie won.
I woke up during the night needing to poop. I couldn't tell exactly what time it was but I got the sense that it was very late and nowhere near dawn. I released a rather large load into my diaper and eventually fell back asleep, worrying that Bertie might think that I was really disgusting.
The early morning light was shining in through the portholes when I next woke up. Bertie was awake and staring at me.
"You shit your diaper, didn't you?" he asked.
"Yeah," I answered quietly, "and you'd better not let my grandmother hear you use that word unless you like the taste of soap."
"Thanks for the warning," he said smiling. "My diaper is pooped in, too. Will your grandmother be mad?"
"It is?! Why?"
He gave me a really goofy look.
"The same reason as you. I had to. Besides, after I was done I kind of liked the feeling."
This was a surprise. I wanted to know more but was too shy to pursue the topic. Sometimes I pooped my diaper because I wanted to, not just because I had to.
"It's after six o'clock. Will your grandmother be up soon?"
"I don't know. She usually gets up early but maybe she stayed up real late last night. Why?"
"Would she get mad if we got cleaned up and dressed on our own?"
"I don't know," I answered. "I normally take off my own diapers in the morning, but I usually wear regular underwear during the day, not diapers. I've never tried to put on a diaper by myself."
"Aren't you getting kind of itchy?" he asked.
"Yeah, kind of."
"Couldn't we help each other get cleaned up and dressed?"
I rationalized to myself that we would do this only to help out my grandmother. In fact, I was excited about his suggestion, especially the part about putting each other into diapers.
"OK," I agreed. "I'll tell my grandmother that we didn't want to disturb her."
Bertie went first. He took off his sleeper while I got out the changing pad. He was really a mess. I carefully cleaned him up before I let him stand up. I showed him how to rinse the diaper in the toilet and put it into the diaper pail. (I wondered what the steward thought about guys our age being in diapers.) I prepared his morning diaper while he was in the shower. He came out wrapped in a towel. He seemed hesitant to approach the bed.
"You won't laugh at me, will you?" he asked.
"Laugh at you? About what?"
"I have a boner that I can't get rid of," he admitted shyly.
"So what? It doesn't mean anything."
I think that he knew I was lying. We each had boners because we were excited about putting each other into diapers. His face relaxed visibly as he stretched out on the bed, ready to get diapered.
I powdered him carefully (and, probably, too much) and pinned him into his diaper. Since he didn't have as much experience with diapers as I had, I explained what I was doing each step of the way, especially the part about pinning the diaper on nice and tight. Lastly, I put his plastic pants on him and checked that all the material was covered.
"OK, your turn," he said excitedly.
I took his place on the bed and he cleaned me as well as he could. I was going to rinse my own diaper out but he told me he wanted to do it. I went into the shower and came out a few minutes later. He had opened a porthole and the fresh sea air smelled nice. I hadn't bothered wearing a towel so I went right over to the diaper that was laying on the bed. He powdered me (with too much powder, too) and pinned me in. He had just finished checking my plastic pants when my grandmother knocked on the door and came in.
"I see that you're up already… And you've showered? Well, that'll save some time. Did you put your own diapers on or did you help each other?"
"We helped each other," Bertie answered.
"Was that OK?" I asked timidly.
"As long as you put them on correctly. Come over here, both of you. Let me check."
She pulled down our plastic pants and tugged at the waist and leg openings of our diapers.
"You boys seem to have done a good job. Next time, though, use less baby powder."
She then selected our clothes for the day. She said that the steward had told her last night that we were heading into a storm— not a very big one, but that the temperatures would be quite a bit cooler and the ship would probably rock noticeably. (This actually sounded exciting to us.) She gave us tan 'play outfits' with heavy sweaters to wear. This also meant we go to wear brown knee socks and brown shoes.
The steward was right. By mid-morning the ship was moving up and down and rocking from side to side. (This is where Bertie and I found out that we weren't prone to seasickness. His parents and Mrs. Brackenthorpe weren't so lucky.) There weren't many people in the dining room at lunch.
My grandmother warned us not to go out onto any open decks, but she said that we could go anywhere else passengers were allowed. We were walking by the children's playroom when we heard squeals of delight. We peeked into the doorway and saw that the lady in charge had cleared out the whole area and the children were sitting on pillows in the middle of the hardwood floor. Every time the ship rocked, the pillows slid across the floor much to the amusement of the young passengers.
"Come on in, boys," the lady called to Bertie and me. "There's plenty of room and there are plenty of pillows."
Except for two girls who seemed to be almost our age, all the other children were very young. I was going to decline but Bertie accepted her offer readily. She gave us our pillows and we scouted out an open area on the floor. Bertie plopped himself down crossed-legged on the pillow, openly flaunting his diaper and plastic pants.
"Come on, Wally, don't be chicken."
The others may have thought that I was afraid to slide around the floor on the pillow but I knew what Bertie really meant. He was challenging me to be as daring as he was and to expose my plastic pants to the other kids.
I joined him on the floor. It turned out to be a lot of fun gliding around and bumping into each other and the walls. Occasionally, we had to get up and bring our pillows back to the center. Every time Bertie and I bent over we exposed our plastic pants at the back; and, ever time we sat down we exposed them at the front.
Eventually, the lady announced that the playroom was closing. As we were leaving, a boy about three years old came up to me.
"I don't have to wear diapers any more because I'm a big boy now! How come you still wear them?"
I felt my face heat up from embarrassment. Bertie, who was standing next to me, laughed out loud.
"Because we have to, nosey," Bertie replied.
The little boy's older sister scolded him for asking personal questions. The lady in charge of the room complimented Bertie for the way he had answered.
"Little children are naturally curious about things. I don't think he was being mean. Not taking the question too seriously was a good reaction. I'm sure it must be hard for you boys to wear diapers at your age," she sympathized as she locked up the room.
My grandmother was quietly reading when we got back to the cabin. She seemed to enjoy Bertie's animated descriptions of sliding around the playroom on the pillows. I could have socked him in the nose when he told her about the little boy's question and my subsequent embarrassment. Why was he taking so much pleasure in talking openly about our diapers and plastic pants?
Even though my grandmother was much older than the Appletons, they seemed to get along very well. They spent a lot of time talking to each other. The only thing that bugged me about it was that they would frequently fall silent when Bertie and I were around. When I shared this with Bertie he told me that I worried too much. He thought that they were just talking about boring adult stuff, like mortgages and taxes. Boy, he wasn't even close!
Part 4 – Surprise Plans
The crossing was almost over. We would dock in Southampton soon. Breakfast was kind of glum. Bertie and I had hit it off pretty well and now he would continue with his parents on their vacation through England and Scotland. My grandmother and I would be going on a much grander (and longer) tour of Europe. I would miss him.
We still had a few hours together so we asked if we could go out on deck to watch the activity. The ship would soon begin slowing down and we heard that a harbor pilot would be coming aboard to supervise our entry into port. For a change we didn't have to worry about our plastic pants and diapers being exposed. We were dressed in our dark grey suits; they had short pants, but they were 'real' boys' shorts coming almost all the way to the knee. The only part of the outfit we wanted to change was our shoes, the babyish looking black patent leather t-strap shoes.
Practically the first person we met on deck was that three-year old from the playroom. He was strolling the deck with his family.
"There they are daddy. See, those are the boys who still wear diapers!" he fairly shouted across the deck.
"Willy, don't shout and you know it's not polite to point," his mo