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
Interesting I thought had checked that when I first posted in fact I know I did.
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 mother scolded him.
Several heads turned to see the target of his comments. Bertie just laughed while I groaned inwardly and blushed. So much for not exposing our diapers and plastic pants today.
There actually wasn't very much to see on deck since we were still several hours away from port. We decided to go back to my grandmother's cabin. The Appletons and my grandmother were sitting in the living room.
"Ah, good," Mr. Appleton said, "I'm glad you're here. I was going to go look for you."
I didn't think we were guilty of anything so I wasn't too concerned. His parents probably just wanted Bertie to move his stuff back to their cabin so they could finish packing.
"Have a seat, boys," he said pointing to the couch. "It seems to me… to us, that you two guys have been getting along very well for the last few days. This is very good, especially considering how Bertie has a history of not getting along well with people who are different."
Bertie cringed at this but this father continued.
"We think it would be good for each of you if your friendship continued but for that to happen you will have to be honest with each other."
His dad stopped talking and looked hard and long at Bertie. Everyone was staring at him, including me. I got the feeling that I was the only one who didn't know something and, whatever that was, Bertie didn't want to tell me. He held out a few moments longer then looked down at his hands and sighed.
"OK," he said to no one in particular. "I got thrown out of boarding school because I played dirty tricks on one of the kids."
That hardly made him a criminal, I thought. What was the big deal?
"Go on," his mother prompted. "Tell us what you did and who you did it to."
Bertie paused again.
"I'm sorry," he said looking toward me.
Now this was really confusing. I didn't know him until a few days ago. Why apologize to me?
"There was this kid in my dorm that everyone picked on. He… he was a bed wetter."
I gave out an involuntary gasp. My heart already went out to this kid, whoever he was. My bedwetting problems were a secret. What must it be like to live in a dorm and have a whole bunch of other kids know that you wet the bed?
Bertie didn't seem to want to go on. I could see real shame written all over his face. But his mother wouldn't let him stop there so she prompted him again.
"A couple of times, me and the other guys (my grandmother winced at his bad grammar but didn't say anything) deliberately stayed a long time in all of the bathrooms when we knew he needed to use them. Twice we made him pee his pants. A couple of other times I poured water on the seat of his desk. When he sat down his pants got all wet. He tried to tell the teacher that it wasn't his fault but, because he was a known pants and bed wetter, the teacher wouldn't believe him. Both times he left the room crying."
By now my eyes were watering up, too. I really felt bad for this kid even though I didn't even know his name.
"The last thing I did was to steal his plastic pants and put tiny pin holes all over the crotch so that when he wet they leaked all over the bed."
Bertie was also choked up with emotion. I believed that he really was sorry for what he had done.
"That first night that my parents met you guys, they told your grandmother about my being expelled. She told them you were a bed wetter, too. My parents thought about it and decided to give me a 'firsthand' idea of what it meant to wear diapers. I really am sorry for what I did."
"Bertie, why don't you talk about how you felt when we took that walk through central Park?" his dad suggested.
"You already know that I was kind of unhappy that day, having to wear diapers and the other stuff."
"'Kind of unhappy'," I teased, "you were practically foaming at the mouth."
"Walter, listen to the story," my grandmother admonished.
"Anyway, when you came down to the lobby dressed exactly like me in those awful yellow baby shoes I was confused. Then, when you told me that you deliberately did it so that I wouldn't feel so alone, I felt bad about what I had done to Andy (that's the kid who wets his bed) in a whole different way than before. For the first time, I felt how awful it must have been for him to be all alone with his problem and to have all the other kids pick on him for something he couldn't help."
He finished his story and wiped his eyes.
"Bertie," my grandmother said, "it takes a lot of courage for someone to admit when he's wrong. I think that what you just said took a lot of courage. You are a very brave young man."
She held out her arms and he got up to receive her hug. In a funny way, I was kind of proud of him, too, but at twelve years old I didn't know how to show it.
The mood was broken when Bertie's dad reminded us that we all had things to do before disembarking in Southampton. After everything that was just said I felt even sadder about saying goodbye to Bertie.
"Before we go about our business, we have something to decide. Sit down again, boys," Bertie's dad said. "Bertie, you know that we almost cancelled your reservations for this trip because of the trouble you got into at your school. Well, I'm glad we didn't, especially in view of the valuable lesson that Walter has taught you. So, it seems a shame that you two guys should have to say goodbye so soon."
Bertie and I were beginning to get excited. Were we going to travel together a little longer? And, if so, how long? Bertie's dad could see our excitement building.
"Simmer down, guys," he said, "you aren't allowed to say anything until I'm completely finished. Your mother and I have noticed a big change in you over the last few days, a change for the better. Now, it so happens that Mrs. Pearlsmith thinks that there has also been a change for the better in Walter, too. Yesterday, she asked if it would be possible for Bertie to stay on with her and Walter for the rest of their trip."
We were ready to explode with excitement but he had decided to deliberately tease us to the maximum.
"Now, now, remember what I said. No talking until I'm finished or we might just change our minds. So anyway, she made the offer to have you stay on for the rest of their trip and your mother and I have thought about it a lot since then. There are several pros and cons, of course…"
It seemed that he was ready to go on talking for a long time but his wife cut him off.
"Bert, for heaven sake, you can see the boys are bursting with excitement. Get to the point. Bertie, do you want to stay with Mrs. Pearlsmith and Walter for the rest of their trip?"
"Yes, yes! Can I, really?!!" he shouted.
He ran over to his mom and gave her a hug. Then, he went to give his dad a hug, too. By the look on his dad's face, it was obvious that Bertie didn't hug him very often.
We couldn't believe it. Bertie and I were so excited we didn't know what to do.
"OK, Bertie, calm down," his father said.
"You, too, Walter," my grandmother added. "We still have things to discuss."
We sat down again.
Mr. Appleton laid down the rules. My grandmother would keep his spending money. He could only spend it on things that she agreed to. Also, Bertie had to listen to my grandmother and do everything she said; he had to agree to stay in diapers for the remaining five weeks of the trip; and, he had to agree to wear whatever he was told to wear. Bertie agreed to everything. Frankly, in his excitement, I think he would have agreed to have his head cut off at the end of the trip. I probably would have agreed, too (that is, to have my head cut off, not his).
"One last thing, Bertie," his dad said, "come here. When you gave me that hug you felt a little squishy. Let me check your diaper."
It was nice to see that Bertie could blush, too. He told his dad that his diaper was really wet "from the excitement and everything."
"And how about you Walter?" my grandmother asked.
Now I blushed. Mr. Appleton volunteered to change both of us. Bertie was beaming over the prospect, I was a little afraid. Mr. Appleton made a good job of it, though.
"I bet you guys didn't think I knew how to change diapers, did you?"
"Of course I knew," Bertie said, "I remember when you used to change mine."
"You do?" his father asked in surprise.
"Uh huh, I liked it the best when you changed me."
Mr. Appleton had a soft look on his face as he left the room.
There wasn't very much left for us to do. Bertie's stuff was already with us since he had slept in my room the whole time. I did notice that there were two packages I hadn't seen before. They were both addressed to my parents.
"What are these?" I asked my grandmother.
"It seems that you boys have too many clothes, so I packaged some of them and I'm shipping them back on the America's return voyage. They will get mailed from New York when the ship arrives there," my grandmother explained.
I would have bet a million dollars, though, that our yellow patent leather shoes were not in either of those boxes.
Bertie's parting from his parents was a bittersweet affair. The awkwardness was broken when Mr. Appleton thanked my grandmother for giving him and his wife the opportunity to have a second honeymoon. This seemed to make Bertie happy and it also allowed him to show his enthusiasm for staying with my grandmother and me.
We arrived in London in the early evening and settled into our hotel. We had a two-bedroom suite, which allowed Bertie and me to have a room together. At dinner, my grandmother explained the London plan.
"Tomorrow morning we will start with the more important sites that I think you should see. We don't want to spend all of our time indoors; there are lots of beauty and history to appreciate outdoors, too. Also, I want to visit some shops recommended by Mrs. Brackenthorpe. And, there is the matter of your diaper changes. We can't keep coming back to the hotel and wasting time for that. So, we'll look for some kind of inconspicuous bag that can hold a day's supply. I'm afraid you boys will have to share the task of carrying it around. For the remaining days, we can make our plans as we go along. Now, when we get back to the room we'll look at some tourist brochures so we can start planning our itinerary."
Also, she informed us that we would spend part of the first evening in a new location writing postcards home.
"Some of them will not be received until after you return. Nonetheless, your parents and friends will be happy to receive them and know that you were thinking about them."
After Bertie and I were in our night diapers and sleepers, my grandmother sent us off to bed but we were too keyed up to sleep.
"Were your parents really mad when you got kicked out of school?" I asked, returning to the revelations he had made that morning.
"Yeah," he said, "especially since this was the second time it happened."
"Your school kicked you out twice?"
"No," he said defensively. "I mean, I was kicked out of a different school two years ago. Oh God, that really sounds terrible. The first time wasn't my fault, really."
He giggled at the thought.
"Well, don't leave me hanging. What did you do?"
He giggled again and was barely able to say, "I lit my teacher's pants on fire."
"You did what?!!" I said in surprise.
"Sshh, your grandmother will hear us," he whispered cautiously. "I didn't mean to. It just sort of happened."
"Yeah, right," I said skeptically.
"No, really. We had a really boring math teacher so we were always trying to figure out ways of getting out of his class. You know, asking to go to the bathroom, getting a drink of water, and stuff like that. Of course, we could only go one at a time and only for a few minutes. Somebody (I don't remember who) thought of lighting a fire in the trashcan so that we could all get out of class together. The problem was how to light the trashcan without getting caught. Tommy (he was my best friend in that school) thought of using a paper airplane. His idea was to light it and then throw it into the trashcan while our teacher wasn't looking. We practiced for a couple of days. Newspaper lit the best but it was tricky to aim. Since I was the best at it, I was chosen to execute the plan."
"OK, OK, I get the picture," I said trying to hurry the story along. "How did you manage to light his pants on fire?"
"I'm coming to that," he answered testily, "give me a chance. I brought the airplane into class inside my math book. About ten minutes after class started Mr. Clattur (our teacher) was showing us how to use some new formulas. I lit the plane and threw it toward the trashcan. At the same second I let it go, a gust of wind blew in through the open door and made the airplane take a sharp left. The nose got stuck in one of Mr. Clattur's belt loops. It hung there until one of the other kids in the class called out to Mr. Clattur that his pants were on fire. He turned around and saw the flames. He took his pants off and started stomping on them. Everybody was laughing, especially since he had on a really goofy looking pair of boxer shorts. Anyway, they found out I had thrown the plane and I got kicked out."
Bertie got serious all of a sudden.
"Now, my parents say that there aren't many choices left. They might send me to a military school for trouble makers so that I learn discipline." His voice cracked as he added, "I'm scared that they'll really do it."
My grandmother came into the room to tell us that we had talked long enough. She sat down in the dark and hummed until we fell asleep.
Our tour of London officially began the next morning. I remember that we went to the Mall and that we watched the Changing of the Guard. After lunch, my grandmother wanted to visit the shops that had been recommended to her. The first was a chemist's, which is a 'pharmacy' in America.
"Can we wait outside, grandma?" I asked, presuming that she was looking for something for herself.
"Oh, no, dear, we're here for you and Bertie."
This was a surprise to us; as far as we knew we didn't need any medicines. The man behind the counter approached my grandmother and asked if he could be of service.
"Yes, I was recommended to you by Mrs. Brackenthorpe. My grandson and his friend require some of your terry toweling diapers and appropriately sized plastic pants."
"I see. You have made a good choice. Those are quite the thickest and most absorbent diapers available. I presume you will be needing them for nighttime use."
"That's correct. The boys are currently wearing their daytime diapers to bed but I feel certain that it is only a matter of time before those diapers will fail to do the job properly."
"Quite right, madam. Much better to be safe than sorry."
I could feel my face getting redder and redder. My grandmother seemed to take no notice of the embarrassment she was causing me. I looked over to Bertie to see how he was taking it. He nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders and smiled at me. So much for moral support.
"You say the boys are currently diapered?" the man continued.
"I was going to suggest that they appear to be in-between the two available youth sizes. May I measure one of the young gentlemen to be certain?"
Much to my relief Bertie stepped forward.
"Behind this screen, please," the man directed.
Bertie lowered his pants and raised his shirt. His diaper was obviously wet but the man ignored it. He took a tape measure and ran it around Bertie's middle, just above his plastic pants.
"That's not quite the natural waist, but close enough," the man commented. "You can put your trousers back on, young man." To my grandmother, he said, "They could wear either the smaller or larger size. May I ask how old they are?"
"They are not quite thirteen," she answered.
"I see. Will they be requiring diapers for some time?"
"That's quite probable, yes."
"In that case, madam, I believe you should purchase the larger size so that they can grow into them."
I replayed in my head what my grandmother had just said: we would probably need these diapers for 'quite some time.' What did that mean? I knew that I had a long-term problem, but were Bertie's parents going to keep him in diapers for months or maybe even years? How did my grandmother know that?
"In what quantities are they available?" my grandmother asked.
"They can be bought individually, but there is a discount for purchases in quantities of ten."
"In that case, I would like ten for each boy. Can they be delivered promptly?"
"Certainly madam. I have ten in stock right now and I can have the remainder here the day after tomorrow."
My grandmother settled with the shopkeeper and asked for the diapers and plastic pants to be delivered to our hotel.
Our next stop was at a luggage shop where we purchased a canvas backpack in which to carry our diapers as we went touring. I was getting tired and hoped that we would be getting back to the hotel but my grandmother directed the cab driver to an address I had never heard of. It was a children's clothing shop similar to the one in New York. I groaned inwardly, but at least this time I wasn't entering the store in just diapers and plastic pants.
"Bertie, come along. We'll start by getting you your own pajamas."
Bertie seemed to be taking things very calmly. Maybe he thought that if he cooperated fully, his parents would think that he had learned his lesson and would lighten up on him. I was bored so I asked my grandmother if I could wait for them outside. (I had seen a hobby store up the street and I wanted to browse their window.)
"Certainly, Walter, if that's what you want. You don't have to join us in our shopping."
I happily left the shop to immerse myself in the wonders of the world of model railroading, totally oblivious to the dangers I had just put myself in.
Part 5 –Secrets
We had already been in France for two days, staying in a small country inn right in the middle of the area where the D-Day landings had occurred. My grandmother had explained to us how the Allies landed on the Normandy beaches to begin the liberation of Europe. We visited my uncle Carl's grave. My grandmother seemed very touched when Bertie and I asked if we could spend some of our money to buy flowers to leave there.
It was now dawn of the third morning and Bertie and my grandmother hadn't started stirring yet. I was very aware of my diaper. I hadn't yet gotten used to the extreme thickness of the terry toweling. So far, I had to admit that they did a very good job. Sometimes, with my old diapers, I would wake up leaking all over the bed. I didn't think that would happen now, since the plastic pants were so much more secure feeling. The only drawback was that they rustled a lot louder than my old ones.
I rolled over onto my elbow to get a look at the clock on Bertie's side of the bed- not even 5:30. I relaxed onto the pillow. I would have been tempted to get out of bed and get cleaned up for the day if I hadn't been wearing one of my new sleepers.
My grandmother insisted that I wear only the new ones, especially since my old ones were getting a little snug, Besides, my new terry toweling diapers would not have fit under them. Even though this seemed logical, there were several reasons why I disliked the new sleepers. They were fancier than my old ones (with cuffs and collar in a contrasting color) and they buttoned up the back, preventing me from taking them off by myself. Lastly, they had an elastic waistband that made my diapers a lot more obvious. I voiced my dismay to Bertie who shrugged it off, telling me not to be so sensitive.
"Besides," he pointed out in almost the same words my mother had used on the day I had left home, "if picking out the right stuff was so important why didn't you stay in the store?"
His tolerant acceptance of what was supposed to be his punishment was getting irritating.
Bertie started stirring around 6:45. I deliberately moved around trying to get him to wake up.
"OK, OK," he said grumpily, "I'm awake. Stop shaking the bed."
"Sorry," I said, trying to sound innocent.
He gave me the exact look my grandmother used when she knew someone was trying to play her for a fool. I blushed.
"Do you want to get up now?" I asked.
"I don't think we should," he answered. "Your grandmother sounded pretty mad last night."
I had forgotten about that. Here's what had happened.
Bertie and I had started a competition over who would carry the diaper bag when we went touring. The first one who needed, or asked for, a diaper change would have to carry the wet diapers around for the rest of the day. At the end of lunch yesterday, my grandmother asked us if we needed a change but we said we were fine. Unfortunately, as Bertie got up from his seat, she noticed that his plastic pants had leaked. She was rather unhappy about having to go back to the inn to get dry pants for him. I opened my big mouth and bragged that I had won.
"Won what?" my grandmother asked suspiciously.
I tried to backtrack but she wouldn't stop asking questions until Bertie and I admitted what we had been doing.
"Well, in that case," she said, "from now on I'll have to make sure that you're adequately protected. I'll take care of selecting your clothing and underclothing."
While getting us ready for bed, she reiterated her displeasure with us and reminded us to wait for her before we got dressed in the morning. Just as I was thinking these thoughts my grandmother walked into our bedroom.
"Good, you're awake," she said cheerily. "Let's get you cleaned up and ready for the day. After breakfast, we'll be taking the train to Paris."
Bertie went first. After I was finished in the bathroom I was surprised to discover that my grandmother still hadn't given Bertie his clothes. He was still wearing only a diaper and plastic pants. I noticed that he had on a thick night diaper and the noisier nighttime plastic pants. Bertie caught my surprised look.
"I know," he said glumly, "this means trouble."
"We can't wear these during the day," I agreed.
Our conversation ended as my grandmother came back into the room.
"Walter, up on the bed," she said pointing to a night diaper ready for my use.
"But, grandma, we can't wear these during the day," I repeated.
"Nonsense," she contradicted, "everything is taken care of."
A few minutes later, Bertie and I stood nervously in our night diapers and plastic pants.
"Put your shoes and socks on and I'll be back with your clothes."
She handed us the dreaded white patent leather t-bar shoes and knee socks. This was going to be one of those days.
"Oh, man," I said to Bertie after she had left the room, "I hope we won't have to wear those awful shirts and shorts that we wore in Central Park."
Once I saw what my grandmother intended for us to wear, I would have gladly worn the yellow 'play outfit' from Central Park. She walked into the room carrying two white rompers.
[Let me explain something that I didn't learn until many years later. The French invented rompers as boys' wear. From 1930 until the early 1950's virtually every preschool-age boy wore rompers at one time or another. In families of modest means, it was not uncommon for boys to continue wearing them as play clothes until they had completely outgrown them, maybe even up to the age of eight or nine. There were three basic types of rompers. The first was what would later become known as the traditional baby romper, a one-piece outfit that buttoned up the back, had tight fitting elastic leg bands, two ties at the back to gather in the waist, short puff sleeves, and a rounded Peter Pan collar. Depending on how fancy they were, the shirt portion might be as heavily smocked as a tuxedo shirt and the collar might be edged in contrasting piping. The second type was the bib romper. As the name suggests, this romper had a bib front much like overalls. These were often worn as sun suits. The last type was known as the suspender romper. This romper had only the pants portion that was held up by straps that crisscrossed in back and then were buttoned at the waist in front. This romper was always worn with a shirt. It was common to see little boys wearing this style romper with a fancy shirt at important family occasions such as weddings or baptisms.]
"I won't wear that," I said petulantly.
What she held out to me was totally unacceptable. I was a traditional one-piece romper- a very fancy blue and white romper. The main body of the romper was blue but the collar, smocking, false waist, and ties were white.
She gave me one of her looks that almost made me change my mind, but the romper suit was so babyish I simply couldn't agree to wear it.
"What about you, Bertie?" she asked.
"I… I…," he stuttered.
I got furious with him, too. Why was he hesitating? Was he crazy? Did he really want strangers to see him wearing that infantile costume? (In fact, I wasn't being fair. He was hesitating because he had promised his parents that he would obey my grandmother, no matter what. After getting expelled from his second school, he didn't want to be sent to military school.)
My grandmother's patience wore out.
"Very well, I won't force you," she declared.
We breathed a sigh of relief.
"Now, let's go down to breakfast," she ordered.
"What?!!!" we shouted.
I admit that we had pushed our diaper wetting game a little too far but we didn't cause any actual harm, except to get Bertie's pants a little wet. There were about fifteen other guests staying in the inn, including a few boys our age. I think they already suspected that there was something 'funny' about our clothes. I would absolutely die if they saw my puffy diapers and plastic pants. So, I caved in.
"OK," I conceded, "I'll wear the romper."
"Too late," she answered, "we've wasted enough time as it is. Let's get going."
"But we're not wearing shirts and pants!" I protested loudly, as if she couldn't that see for herself.
"Then it's lucky for you that the weather is warming up," she snapped.
She grabbed us by the hands as we tried to get away from her. Bertie immediately became passive but I struggled against her grip. The leather soles of my shoes worked against me.
"Stop it this instant," she bellowed.
I had never heard her raise her voice that way. I was momentarily stunned.
In a calmer voice she continued, "Bertie's not fighting this. Try to behave like him."
I looked at Bertie. He wasn't fighting her, but he was just as scared as me. He was shaking all over. It looked to me as if he might faint before we even got to the dining room. Not that I wished him any harm, but I kind of hoped that he would faint. That might stop my grandmother from taking us downstairs. Or, maybe, I could faint, like I had done in the store in New York. The thought flashed through my mind that I could try to fake it, but I was too afraid of what my grandmother would do if she suspected that I was just playacting.
As soon as we stepped out into the hallway my knees buckled.
"Stand up straight, Walter," my grandmother said. "You, too, Bertie. Stop your nonsense this instant."
That was easy for her to say. She wasn't about to be paraded trough the dining room in her underwear. In fact, I'm sure that anyone over the age of two would have been quite unhappy wearing our 'underwear' in public. We could already hear voices and the clinking of dishes as we started down the stairs. Our leather soles and heels made loud clip-clopping noises as we descended. My knees buckled again when we got to the bottom; Bertie looked like he wanted to race back up to the room. My grandmother tightened her grip on our hands.
The first person to see us was the owner' son who was waiting on tables. His jaw dropped and his eyes widened in amazement. Then, one of the boys our age saw us. He laughed out loud and said something in French. His mother said something back in an irritated voice but stopped when she, too, saw us. She seemed to become flustered and snapped at her son again. I didn't realize it but my grandmother was giving the whole dining her 'look.' People went back to their meals as we sat down.
My grandmother made us eat a full breakfast before allowing us to return to our rooms. I don't know how we managed to keep it down.
"Have you finished packing?" she asked.
"Yes, grandma," I answered for Bertie and me. "Umm… grandma, can I get my diaper changed?"
"You can't possibly need a change already, can you?" she asked. "I doubt that that thick diaper needs changing so soon. Come here."
She put her finger into the leg opening and declared that it could take several more wettings, which I knew to be true. I meekly agreed and let the matter drop.
Bertie and I were getting more nervous by the minute. We still were dressed in just our diapers and plastic pants. I couldn't stand the suspense.
"Grandma, shouldn't we get dressed? Doesn't our train leave soon?"
"I've already picked out your outfits for the day. Does this mean that you've changed your minds about wearing them?"
The outfits were even more awful than we had expected. They were cut to fit over daytime diapers so our nighttime diapers made the 'pants' bulge out to their maximum revealing the edges of our plastic pants.
"There, now," she declared. "You look quite handsome."
"No we don't," I thought to myself. "We look totally stupid."
I was in a grand funk and I intended to stay that way. Bertie, though seemed to have recovered. He was busily helping my grandmother arrange the luggage while I pointedly sat there watching, refusing to budge. My grandmother left the room to pay the bill.
"What's wrong with you?" Bertie asked.
"What's wrong with me?" I screamed in frustration. "We're going to have to travel all the way to Paris in baby clothes and you ask what's wrong with me?"
"Yeah, I know. But what can we do about it? What do you think your grandmother would do if we go against her again? Look, you can do what you want but I don't want to be sent to military school. I have to stay on your grandmother's good side."
"Yeah, I guess so," I said peevishly.
"Then, can't you help me out a little? It might even do you some good, too. Your grandmother might let us have our usual daytime diapers back if we cooperate with her."
I wanted to be stubborn and disagreeable but my anger was wearing off.
"OK. I'll try not to mess things up for you."
It was hard, but I managed.
My grandmother didn't let us have our regular diapers back for five more days. By then, we had already toured the major sights and walked up and down the Champs Elysées several times. Nonetheless, I was overjoyed when I saw that she was putting us back into our regular daytime diapers. Maybe people would stop staring at us.
Unfortunately, she continued to dress us like twin babies. She seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of one-piece clothing. The latest was a bright yellow romper. Naturally we had to wear our yellow patent leather t-strap shoes with these. I asked Bertie what he knew about all these clothes.
"Your grandmother bought them in London. You know, on the day that you went and looked at model trains instead of staying with us at the clothing store."
"You knew about this and you didn't say anything!" I scolded him.
"I didn't know that she had bought two of everything. I thought she was buying things to keep me behaving. I assumed that my parents had given her permission to scare me with the threat of treating me like a total baby if I got out of line. I was too embarrassed to tell you."
"Oh," I said simply.
This still didn't explain everything. Why had my grandmother bought a duplicate set for me? Whatever the reason, I didn't like it.
We left Paris for a destination that I had been waiting for ever since I had read about it in my grandmother's travel brochures: the Riviera. We arrived in Cannes in late afternoon. It was just like I had pictured, with the Mediterranean glimmering in the sunlight just a hundred yards outside our hotel window. As usual, my grandmother had arranged splendid accommodations.
The only disappointment was my grandmother's apparent determination to dress us in increasingly babyish clothes. It had been almost a week since we had worn anything but one-piece outfits. Our traveling clothes for the trip to Cannes were a perfect example.
First of all, my grandmother announced that we would be put into two daytime diapers to avoid the inconvenience of needing to get changed on the train. (These turned out to be even more bulky than our thick nighttime diapers.) When she showed us our outfits, I wanted to protest but a silent plea in Bertie's eyes signaled that he was still afraid of being sent to military school. I swallowed my pride and allowed her to dress us. The outfits consisted of suspender rompers and white shirts. The rompers were dark blue and the shirts had short puff sleeves with blue piping on the Peter Pan collar and matching blue buttons. The indignity of it all was heightened by coordinated clip-on bow ties.
The next morning we were very anxious to get onto the beach. After breakfast, my grandmother told us to strip down to our diapers and plastic pants and that she would bring us our beach wear. She eventually came into our room carrying two pairs of brown sandals and (presumably) our bathing suits and shirts. We expected her to take us out of our diapers but she merely handed us our sandals and told us to put them on.
"Shouldn't we take our diaper off first?" I asked meekly.
"Whatever for?" she asked, genuinely amazed.
"But, aren't we wearing bathing suits on the beach?" Bertie asked.
"Of course not," she answered plainly. "Now let's not lose any more time. Here put these on."
She handed each of us a white bib romper made from very lightweight cotton. There would certainly be no swimming for us today. Bertie tried to look enthusiastic but I could tell that he was disappointed, too. We walked down to the beach.
"Grandma, how come there aren't many people here?"
"People in France and the rest of Europe usually take their vacations in August. We're considered 'early birds.'"
I guess that was something to be thankful for. At least, there would be fewer people seeing us in our baby outfits.
We got to the beach and hotel personnel were already there setting up a beach umbrella and blankets for our use. They had also brought our diaper bag. I was still clinging to the hope that our bathing suits were inside.
"Come here, boys. Let me put some suntan lotion on your backs."
She began unbuttoning my sun suit.
"Grandma!" I protested, "be careful. Someone might see my diapers."
"Your sun suit was only for walking down to the beach. You can't wear it here. You'll get funny tan lines if you keep it on. You don't want it to look like you were wearing a girl's bathing suit, do you?"
"No, of course not," I agreed in a horrified tone. "But, my diapers… Can't I wear a bathing suit?"
"No, dear, I'm sorry. Even at the beach you could embarrass yourself by wetting unexpectedly."
"Please, grandma…," I begged one last time.
"No," she repeated more firmly. "Stop this nonsense immediately."
That was that. I sat down on the blanket, miserable.
"Come along, Bertie, you need lotion, too."
Bertie meekly allowed my grandmother to remove his sun suit. After she was finished with his back, she handed him the bottle and we oiled our arms and legs. He joined me on the blanket. We sat silently for a short while.
"We can't spend all day just sitting here," Bertie finally said.
"You're right," my grandmother agreed. "Let's at least get our feet wet."
Bertie and I understood that this was a command and not a suggestion. We walked to the water's edge. The temperature was perfect and I longed to dive in headfirst but I was afraid of two things: my grandmother's reaction and having an overloaded diaper sagging inside my plastic pants.
Bertie and I waded in as far as we dared, partly to get further away from the people on the beach and partly to enjoy the water. Of course, this meant that we were closer to the people who were swimming.
We had gone about a half-mile when a boy our age ran into us (literally). He and his sister were playing ball and he was running backwards chasing a wild throw when he bumped into Bertie. He turned around and began apologizing in French. (At least, that's what I thought he was doing.) He stopped suddenly when he focused on our diapers and plastic pants. I was burning up with embarrassment. My grandmother answered him and then translated for us what he had just said. Immediately, he switched into English, which he spoke pretty well, but with a very thick accent.
"I excuse myself, again," he repeated. "I am sorry that I did not see you."
"That's OK," Bertie murmured.
He seemed as anxious as me to get out of this situation. My grandmother, however, didn't share our urgency.
"You speak English very well," she complimented him. "Where did you learn it?"
"Madame is too kind," he answered. "My papa is a trade liaison for the French government in England. We have lived there for two years. We are home just for the vacations. My name is Jean-Claude Lambert."
"Very pleased to meet you," my grandmother answered. "I'm Mrs. Pearlsmith and this is my grandson Walter. The other young man is his friend Albert Appleton."
"Plasir de faire votre connaissance," he said slipping into French unconsciously.
"Will you be here in Cannes very long?" my grandmother asked.
"Three more days," he replied.
"Excellent. Perhaps we could meet your family?" my grandmother continued.
"But of course, Madame. My maman and my papa are sitting on the beach."
He began leading us to his parents. Bertie and I wanted to die.
"Maman, papa? May I present Madame Pearlsmith, her grandson Walter, and his friend Albert," he said very formally.
Greetings were exchanged all around. True to their diplomatic experience, neither Mr. nor Mrs. Lambert reacted to our diapers. However, Jean-Claude's little sister, Marie-Claire, needed a warning glance from her mother to stop her snickering behind our backs.
My grandmother accepted their invitation to sit down on their blanket. Since Mrs. Lambert's English wasn't very good, my grandmother switched into French. This made me even more nervous.
"Can Bertie and I go back now?" I asked.
"Certainly," she answered much to my relief.
"May I go with them?" Jean-Claude asked.
"No!" I thought to myself. "Doesn't this guy get it? Doesn't he sense how embarrassing it is being out in public dressed in diapers and plastic pants? Can't he see how badly my diapers are sagging and that I need to get changed?"
I silently willed them to say 'no' but before they got a chance to speak, my grandmother made a proposal.
"I have ordered lunch from the hotel to be delivered to us on the beach. Won't you please join us?"
"No!" I thought to myself again. "No! No! No! No! No!"
My thoughts did no good. My grandmother continued.
"The three boys can go on ahead and change our order with the concierge. We can follow in a few minutes."
"Grandma," I tried to say in a reasonable voice, "Bertie and I can't go back to the hotel like this."
"Of course not, dear," she answered. "You and Bertie will need to change each other first. Don't forget- double diapers. And, you'll see I've gotten you some new plastic pants to make the job easier. After you're in dry diapers put your clothes back on run over to the hotel. Tell them we will be seven people instead of three. Now, run along."
I was speechless, angry, and terrified. How could my grandmother do this to us? She practically undressed us right there in front of the Lamberts. How could she suggest that Jean-Claude come with us and see us getting our diapers changed? How humiliating.
Jean-Claude put on the shirt and sandals that his mother handed to him. We trudged over to our blanket. I could feel every eye on the beach boring in on us, staring at our diapers and plastic pants.
"Do you want to go first?" Bertie asked.
What difference would it make? Either way, I was going to be totally humiliated. Even in my agitated state I noticed that Bertie didn't seem to be upset at all by our predicament. This made me even angrier.
"I'll go first." I said.
Jean-Claude pretended to be uninterested in my diaper change but I saw how he was keenly observing the whole process out of the corner of his eye. After what seemed like an interminable length of time my two diapers were pinned on. I sat up in preparation for putting on my plastic pants. Bertie was still rummaging through the diaper bag, a quizzical look on his face.
"Uh…, these pants are different," he said flatly.
"Different how?" I asked.
"They have snaps on the sides and they're not plain."
"What do you mean not plain?" I asked nervously.
He pulled out two plastic pants: one was white with little children chasing yellow, red, and blue balloons and the other was blue with kittens and puppies chasing brightly colored balls of yarn. I was speechless.
"Lie back down and lift up."
The pants crackled loudly as he unfolded them and slid them under me. My eyes locked into Jean-Claude's as Bertie finished fastening the snaps. I felt ten times worse than when that girl in New York saw me in my diaper and plastic pants.
"Clothes," I said to Bertie.
"Huh?" he answered, perplexed.
"Where are my clothes?"
He handed them to me and I began pulling the sun suit over the horrible baby pants. It was bad enough that Jean-Claude saw how wet my diapers were; he didn't need to see these humiliating plastic pants, too.
"Let me help." Jean-Claude said, taking over the buttoning of my sun suit, which my shaking fingers couldn't manage. "Your grandmother, she is mad at you?" he asked.
"I… I don't know," I said fighting back tears.
"No matter, they are only clothes. Do not be upset."
I didn't know what to think. His words sounded kind but I couldn't be sure. Bertie's request for me to help him change his diapers interrupted my reverie. After snapping him into the blue baby pants I was shocked to see that his sun suit didn't do a very good job of hiding the childish pattern underneath. Looking down at myself I saw that the bright colored balloons of my baby pants were equally visible. Why was my grandmother doing this to us?
We walked back to the hotel to change my grandmother's lunch order. The concierge was polite but he couldn't conceal his surprise at our attire. His eyes constantly fell to below our waists where our bright colored plastic pants practically glowed through the light material. Moreover, the quiet hotel lobby didn't do anything to mask the loud crackling noises of our plastic pants.
Back at the beach, we sat under the umbrella enjoying the shade and the sea breezes.
"You are being punished?" Jean-Claude asked again.
From his point of view I guess the question made sense. Why else would we be wearing diapers and these infantile baby pants? I'm sure he would never have thought that one of us was a pants and bed wetter. An awkward silence stretched out.
"I'm sorry, I should not have pried into your affairs," Jean-Claude apologized.
"It's OK," I answered. "I've worn diapers all my life because I wet the bed. My grandmother put me into daytime diapers because I had an accident at the Empire State Building in New York."
"An accident?" Jean-Claude asked perplexed.
"I wet my pants because I couldn't get to the bathroom fast enough," I said blushing.
"Oh," he answered. After a slight pause, he continued, "Why are your clothes so… how do you say?… young?"
"Babyish." Bertie answered. "I think that's my fault. I'm being punished because I played tricks on a boy who wet his bed at my school. I got kicked out because of it.
"What is kicked out?" Jean-Claude wondered.
"Sent home," Bertie answered. "I can't go back there any more. My parents are very mad about it and they say they will send me to military school if I don't improve my behavior. That's why I don't complain to Mrs. Pearlsmith about these clothes she gives us."
"Ah," Jean-Claude answered. "I see the problem."
This was the first time that such an open discussion had been held about our baby clothes. I guess Bertie didn't want my grandmother to overhear him talk about them and think that he was complaining. I, on the other hand, was terribly frustrated by it all and used this opportunity to vent my feelings.
"I don't understand why my grandmother is doing this to me. It's not my fault that I wet at night or that sometimes I can't get to a bathroom in time. Wearing these things in public is so embarrassing. And, wearing just our diapers on the beach this morning was so… so… I don't know… scary… and humiliating."
Another silent pause ensued but this one was more comfortable than the last one.
"At least you are in Europe where no one knows you. There is little chance that you will be seen by your friends from America," Jean-Claude pointed out.
"I guess so," I answered slowly. "But what if she and my parents make me wear clothes like this when I get home?"
"Why would they do that?" Bertie asked.
"I don't know," I said in a voice that sounded whiney even to me. "Why is she doing it now?"
Since none of us had the answer to that another silent pause followed.
"You should not worry so much about your clothes," Jean-Claude said. "Is it not more important to be a good person? What do clothes matter?"
"They matter a lot," I said defensively. "I would die if I had to go outside in my neighborhood dressed in this sun suit, these diapers, and baby pants."
"Then you are wrong," Jean-Claude answered forcefully. "It is silly to let other people have that effect on you. You must stand up for yourself. Clothes do not matter."
"Yes they do!" Bertie contradicted loudly. "You don't know what you're talking about."
"I do know what I am talking about," he answered equally loudly. "Only an immature person would worry about what other people think."
"Are you saying we're immature? That we're babies?" I continued.
"I am saying that if I were in your situation I would not care what clothes I was made to wear. What other people think should be without importance."
"Then you're stupid," I said flatly.
We were so engrossed in our conversation that we didn't notice my grandmother, Marie-Claire and the Lamberts approaching.
"Walter," my grandmother said sternly, "Jean-Claude is our guest. We do not call them names or argue with them."
"But, grandma…," I said trying to defend myself.
"No buts, young man. Apologize to Jean-Claude."
"Please, madame Pearlsmith," Jean-Claude's father said. "I am sure that it was Jean-Claude's fault. He loves to argue."
"But, papa, I am not in the wrong this time…," Jean-Claude said trying to justify himself.
"No buts from you either, Jean-Claude. Apologize."
All three of us were still a little heated. No one wanted to apologize. My grandmother and Mr. and Mrs. Lambert became irritated by our stubbornness.
"What was this all about?" Mrs. Lambert asked.
As we repeated our discussion to the adults I thought that it did sound pretty silly. Still, I wasn't going to admit that I was wrong when I knew that I was right.
"Jean-Claude," his dad said, "you do not have the same experience as these boys. You cannot say how they should act or feel. You are in the wrong."
"Papa, do you not always say that a person is judged by what they do and how they think? Is it not better to be fearless than to be afraid? Being afraid of the opinions others is wrong, no?"
"This situation is more complicated than that," his dad explained. "I think you must apologize."
Jean-Claude obviously didn't want to follow his dad's directions. He sat there sullenly without saying anything.
"You see, madame Pearlsmith," Mr. Lambert said. "Jean-Claude is very stubborn."
"Please, Mr. Lambert," my grandmother answered. "No apology is necessary. Jean-Claude is entitled to his opinion, too."
I wasn't happy either. Jean-Claude had practically called us 'babies' and he was going to get away with it.
"But Jean-Claude's opinion is without basis. He can only think what it would be like to suffer the judgment of other people. He does not know what it feels like to be judged as Albert and Walter are judged when people see them in their… special clothes. ("I apologize for being so blunt," Mr. Lambert said to Bertie and me.)
"But, papa," Jean-Claude tried one more time, "I would not be affected by the judgments of other people. I know this."
"Enough!" Mrs. Lambert said to her son. "This discussion has gone on too long. You are embarrassing Albert and Walter."
"I will not apologize," Jean-Claude said definitively, "I am right."
Mr. Lambert sighed in frustration.
"Very well. If you are so sure, perhaps madame Pearlsmith will consent to an experiment."
"An experiment?" Jean-Claude said in a wary tone.
"I see," my grandmother said, obviously understanding where Mr. Lambert was going. "Yes, I think it can be arranged. The boys have plenty of clothes."
Jean-Claude's face dropped. Bertie and I were ecstatic. (Marie-Claire also seemed pleased that her brother seemed to have painted himself into a corner.) Jean-Claude was going to find out first hand what it felt like to be dragged around publicly in diapers and baby clothes!
"I do not think there is any need to wait. Perhaps while we are waiting for lunch to arrive Jean-Claude can be dressed in his new clothes," Mr. Lambert said. "Unless, of course, he wishes to say that he was wrong and apologize."
Jean-Claude was in a real quandary. He could see the challenge (smirks?) on our faces. If he backed down now, he would be a wimp. If he didn't, he would have to wear diapers and baby clothes in public.
"My opinion is not wrong," he insisted.
The next thing he knew my grandmother and his mother were walking him towards our hotel. Marie-Claire begged to go along. Mr. Lambert preempted any complaints from Jean-Claude.
"You are not going to forbid your sister from seeing you? Did you not just say that the opinions of others should be of no consequence?"
"That is right," Jean-Claude agreed, mustering all the dignity he could.
Bertie and I stayed on the beach with Mr. Lambert who told us fascinating stories about being a teenager in war-torn France.
I like to think that the outfit that my grandmother selected for Jean-Claude indicated her support of our side of the argument (although I was still confused as to why she had bought any of this stuff). He had on a white sun suit like ours, except that the stitching was done in red. The general effect was one of extreme childishness. He was also wearing patterned plastic pants whose bright colors could be seen through the thin material of the sun suit.
He was trying to look unfazed by his predicament but I could see his eyes darting up and down the beach hoping that no one noticed him. I was still annoyed enough by his earlier comments to hope that he would be seen by someone he knew.
"Lunch hasn't arrived yet?" my grandmother commented. "Well, let's get you boys out of your sun suits since we'll be staying on the beach for a while."
We reluctantly complied. Jean-Claude's plastic pants were fully revealed: they depicted little boys and girls in brightly colored sun suits holding hands. His mother seemed thrilled at having her son back in diapers. She commented several times to her husband on how adorable he looked in his plastic pants. Marie-Claire expressed her pleasure at having a little brother to take care of.
"Amuse yourselves all you want," Jean-Claude responded. "It is you who look foolish, not me."
Judging by the nervous glances he kept throwing over his shoulder, I don't think he really believed what he was saying.
Lunch arrived. We had been in Europe long enough now that I was used to the European style of eating lunch. The salads, cheeses, breads, and various condiments were no longer a mystery to me.
"Walter, are you finished with your diaper bag?" my grandmother asked.
I was surprised by this seemingly random question. I looked at her quizzically.
"Are there only wet diapers in your diaper bag?" she asked.
"Uh…, yes," I answered blushing.
She turned to the hotel employees and directed them to bring our diaper bag back to the hotel so that our 'laundry' could be done as soon as possible. This open discussion of our dirty diapers embarrassed me immensely even though the hotel employees obviously saw the three of us sitting there in our baby pants.
The afternoon was spent pretty much like the morning. My grandmother and the Lamberts saw to it that we 'wet our feet' in the water. This meant a long walk up and down the beach in our diapers and baby pants. Jean-Claude continued the fiction that he was not embarrassed or affected by the stares we got. Personally, I thought that Bertie and I did a better job of acting nonchalant than he did. In a way, Jean-Claude provided a distraction that actually made me more relaxed and less self-conscious.
It was finally time to leave. We went back to the blanket and got our stuff together. The hotel staff had already taken away the umbrella, blanket, and towels. We put on our sandals and looked around for our sun suits. They were nowhere to be found.
"Grandma," I said, panic rising in my voice, "our clothes are gone!"
"Oh dear," she answered, "I put them with the diaper bag as we were getting organized for lunch. They must have been taken to the laundry along with the diaper bag."
I nearly fainted from fright. We couldn't go back to the hotel in our baby pants! But we did. I don't have a clear recollection of the walk back until we all got into the hotel elevator.
"Walter, I think it's high time that you apologize to Jean-Claude," my grandmother said.
"OK," I agreed unenthusiastically. "I'm sorry that I called you stupid, Jean-Claude."
"I accept your apology. Thank you."
I think that we all expected Jean-Claude to reciprocate, but he remained silent.
"Well," his father said, "what about your apology, Jean-Claude?"
"But, papa, I do not have anything for which to apologize."
Something snapped inside Mr. Lambert. He face flushed a bright red and he began speaking rapidly in French. Jean-Claude took on a defiant look and said something in answer. Mrs. Lambert looked alarmed and appeared to me to be trying to calm them down. We arrived at our floor and went into my grandmother's suite. The tension was high.
Mr. and Mrs. Lambert and Jean-Claude went into the bedroom Bertie and I were using. My grandmother told Marie-Claire, Bertie and me to stay in the living room. She walked into the bedroom and shut the door. Muffled voices speaking French could be heard. In a very short time the voices became louder. Marie-Claire had a worried look on her face.
"I think Jean-Claude has gone too far."
"What are they saying," I asked.
"I only hear papa. He says that Jean-Claude is disrespectful. He also says…"
The sound that came through the door left me mystified. Its immediate repetition, however, cleared everything up.
"He's getting spanked!" I exclaimed.
"I think you're right," Bertie agreed. "Does your father do this all the time?"
"Never," Marie-Claire answered.
Jean-Claude seemed to have given up all attempts to preserve his dignity. I didn't need to know French to understand that he was screaming for his dad to stop. It wasn't until well after he stopped begging that the spanking sounds ended. My grandmother and Mrs. Lambert came out of the room. Mrs. Lambert carried a large pile of diapers and plastic pants; my grandmother held several of our baby outfits.
"Come along, Marie-Claire, papa and Jean-Claude will follow shortly."
My grandmother handed the pile of clothes to Marie-Claire and they left. She ushered us into her room to take off our diapers. We showered and were re-diapered. My grandmother sent us out to the living room saying that she would finish dressing us when it was time to go to dinner.
Jean-Claude and his dad had already left so Bertie and I weren't sure what had happened. From the ruckus we had heard, it seemed reasonable to assume that he had been put back into diapers. But what else might he be wearing? His sister had left with a pile of rompers. Was he wearing another one of ours? If not, had he left wearing only diapers? My grandmother overheard our conversation and advised us to find something useful to do. Since we didn't want to antagonize her, we played cards.
When it was time to get ready for dinner, my grandmother called us into the bedroom to change our diapers. As I walked into the room my eyes fell on two pairs of white dress socks and our round-toed white patent leather shoes. I didn't like the look of this. As my grandmother was unpinning Bertie, I asked her where would be eating.
"We're meeting the Lambert's at a restaurant."
Bertie went off to use the bathroom to do number two.
"What will we be wearing?" I asked .
"Nothing," she answered, "unless you stop this dawdling. "Now, if you need to use the bathroom, go to my room and be quick about it."
When I got back, Bertie was sitting on the edge of the bed wearing a heavy nighttime diaper. I really didn't like the look of this. My grandmother got me into a nighttime diaper and plastic pants, too. Walking over to the closet, she removed two pearl-gray rompers. I stared at them in dread. While they appeared to be like the others we had previously worn, there was something different that I couldn't put my finger on. What was it? I examined them closely as she laid them on the bed. There was nothing different about the puff-sleeves, or the Peter Pan collars, or the baby-style elasticized legs. Suddenly, I saw the dreadful difference. These shimmered in the light; they were made out of satin! These would have been appropriate for a two-year ring bearer at a fancy wedding. I began backing away from the bed, unable to comprehend why my grandmother would make us wear those in public.
"Walter, get your socks on. We're going to be late," she commanded. Seeing my lack or response, she continued, "Are you going to give me trouble again about wearing what I've selected for you?"
"No, of course not," Bertie said quickly. "Sit on the bed, Wally. I'll help you."
He quickly slipped my socks on and buckled my shoes. I stood up. My grandmother guided my feet through the leg openings and began buttoning me into the romper. I glanced down at myself. This romper was sure to make me look absolutely ridiculous. The puff-sleeves see
seemed even puffier, the smocking was much more fancy, and the 'pants' certainly bulged much more than on any of the other rompers we had worn. I looked over to Bertie and he stared back silently pleading with me not to make a fuss. I nodded slightly toward him. I didn't want my grandmother to get mad at us, either. One meal in a public dining room dressed in only a diaper and plastic pants was more than enough.
We took the elevator to the lobby and waited for the Lamberts. My grandmother wouldn't let us sit down, claiming that we would wrinkle our outfits. Luckily, there were lots of potted plants to hide behind. As soon as Mr. and Mrs. Lambert and Marie-Claire got off the elevator my grandmother made us stand beside her. Marie-Claire had her hand over her mouth, trying to stifle a giggle. Worse yet, I was horrified that Jean-Claude was nowhere to be seen. I was sure that this ultra-baby treatment was somehow connected to his behavior during the afternoon and I was incensed that he was not being included in the humiliation I now felt.
But, I was wrong. Jean-Claude followed behind his mother and father. My jaw dropped as he came into view. (Today, I am ashamed to admit that my happiness at how he was dressed was motivated purely by vengeance.) He wore a satin romper, too- only his was pure white with baby blue piping and baby blue buttons. It was totally infantile. Bertie and I must have smirked out loud because my grandmother gave both of us a warning about our manners. I was disappointed, however, that Jean-Claude didn't really seem very embarrassed by it all. He was still playing the 'this-doesn't-bother-me' game with his parents."
It took us about fifteen minutes to walk to the restaurant. As I suspected, Jean-Claude was still proclaiming his total indifference to what anyone might think about how he was dressed. However, I did notice that he became very quiet whenever we came near any boys our age. This perceived duplicity was really becoming irritating. One benefit of my foul mood was that I barely noticed how people were staring and pointing at us.
At the restaurant, the meal seemed to go on forever. On several occasions, Bertie and I tried to get Jean-Claude to admit that being dressed in baby clothes was terribly embarrassing. Each time he loudly disagreed with us. More than once, my grandmother had to ask us to drop the topic. We should have minded her warnings.
As soon as we got back to our hotel room she began scolding us.
"Dinner is not the time to bring up disagreements or arguments. I was quite embarrassed by your bickering with Jean-Claude. Now, into your bedroom and I'll get you ready for bed."
For my grandmother, that was a pretty mild scolding. I should have known that more was coming. We undressed down to our diapers. My grandmother took off Bertie's diaper and cleaned his diaper area. She told him to stand to one side. She did the same for me. I was getting very nervous about where this was going. She took a seat on the straight-backed chair near the window.
"Come here, Walter."
I was paralyzed with fear. My grandmother repeated herself, but in a gentler tone. I cautiously approached her.
"You remember that you promised your mother to obey me during this trip?"
"Did you obey me tonight?"
I shook my head from side to side.
"That's right. You didn't. You didn't act with the maturity I expect of you. For that reason, I must punish you in a very babyish way."
"No, grandma. Please don't," I begged. "We won't disobey again."
I didn't know what my grandmother was planning, but I was sure that Bertie and I wouldn't like it. Without warning, she reached out and grabbed my arm and, before I could resist, I found myself face down on her lap.
"No!" I screamed.
"Stop it this instant, Walter. You're going to be punished and that's that," she said as she pulled on one of her leather daytime gloves. "Now, you're going to count the spanks to make sure I don't go past twenty-five."
The swats started coming down.
"Ow! One," I screeched. "Ow! Two… Ow! Three…"
By the time I got to twelve, my tears started flowing. It got more difficult to count out loud.
I finally got to twenty-five. My grandmother released me.
"Do you need to use the bathroom?"
"Alright, but don't dawdle. As soon as you're finished come back here and I'll get you into your night diapers."
I went into the bathroom feeling humiliated and angry. I had gotten spanked in front of Bertie and he had gotten nothing. He was as guilty as me. It wasn't fair. Nonetheless, I hurried up, not wanting to get my grandmother angrier than she already was. When I came out of the bathroom I was surprised to see Bertie still standing there naked. I was cleaned up and re-diapered.
"And now, you, Bertie," my grandmother began in a severe tone, "what do you have to say for yourself."
"I'm sorry," he muttered.
"You already know that's it's too late for apologies."
Bertie hesitated for a second before approaching her. She laid him on her lap. I was surprised to see him shaking nervously.
"You will keep count to make sure I don't exceed thirty-five."
"Yes, thirty-five. You were already on probation with your parents when this trip began. You should have been even more quick to obey than Walter."
She put her glove back on and began. Bertie counted in a tremulous voice. Before he reached fifteen, he began sobbing as I had done. At number twenty-eight, he suddenly began apologizing frantically through his tears. Did he think that this would make my grandmother stop? Curiously, my grandmother's determination seemed to falter and she quickly finished his spanking, counting the numbers herself.
Bertie hesitated in getting up. When he eventually did, he looked dazed and extremely red in the face. His sobbing seemed overly extreme and abject. I was stunned to see that he had left a large circle of wetness on her dress.
"Use the bathroom and when I come back I'll diaper you," she said quietly.
Bertie was too upset to speak so he nodded and ran into the bathroom. I waited in the bedroom. Bertie came out before my grandmother returned. He had stopped sobbing but he wouldn't look at me. I was still dressed in only a diaper and plastic pants so I waited quietly. My grandmother came back (dressed in her nightgown and robe) and diapered Bertie who began crying again. My grandmother spoke to him quietly while she got him into his pajamas. She sent him off to bed and I followed as soon as I, too, had my pajamas on.
Forty-five minutes later I was still awake. Bertie had calmed down but I could tell by his movements every few minutes that he was still awake.
"Bertie, are you OK?"
"What do you think?" he answered sarcastically.
"Excuse me for living," I answered with equal sarcasm.
A few more minutes of silence went by. I was acutely aware of my burning behind. My grandmother could pack a good wallop. I imagined that Bertie must really be sore, having received ten more smacks than me. We had both decided to try sleeping on our stomachs. Also, I couldn't stop thinking of that big wet spot on the front of my grandmother's dress. I knew it was wrong, but it caused me to get another erection. My thoughts were interrupted by a slight shaking of the bed and the sound of Bertie quietly sobbing.
"What's the matter?" I asked hesitantly.
"My parents are sure to send me to military school, now." he answered in a despairing voice.
"Don't say that. You don't know that for sure," I answered encouragingly.
"Don't be stupid. You know that I'm in big trouble with your grandmother. I broke my promise and I… I… wet her dress."
I wasn't going to point out that I was sure that he must have wet a lot more than just her dress. Also, the mere recollection of that wet spot was getting me hard again. I tried to concentrate on something else.
"We both made a mistake and my grandmother has punished us for it. I don't think that it will go any further than that. We'll just have to be very careful from now on and do everything my grandmother says as soon as she says it."
"But what about the other thing… while she was spanking me?"
I could understand Bertie's embarrassment and fear. What I couldn't understand was why it kept getting me aroused.
"You didn't do it on purpose? Right?"
"Of course I didn't do it on purpose," he answered irritably.
"I didn't think you did. And, I don't think my grandmother thinks so either. You've seen enough to know how she is. If she thought that you had done it on purpose, your behind would literally be on fire now," I chuckled.
"It's not funny," he answered churlishly. "Besides, you got it almost as bad as me."
"Yeah. I hope we won't have to do a lot of sitting tomorrow."
Neither of us slept very soundly. For one thing, our sore behinds kept waking us up every time we rolled onto our backs. We were very groggy when my grandmother got us up. She changed our diapers and dressed us in nursery print baby pants. She handed us plain white t-shirts and white sandals to put on.
"Let's have breakfast and then we're off to the beach," my grandmother announced.
"You didn't give us our pants, yet," Bertie said as unemotionally as possible.
She ignored Bertie's comment.
"I've ordered breakfast in. It's going to be a beautiful day, let's not waste any of it."
A table had been set up in the living room. Bertie and I ate nervously, wondering about our pants. My grandmother seemed oblivious to our worry. She chatted about meeting the Lamberts on the beach, having lunch with them and then going shopping.
After breakfast, my grandmother began collecting our things for the beach. Our concern had risen to panic when it became obvious that my grandmother wasn't going to give us any pants or shorts. Bertie cracked first.
"Mrs. Pearlsmith, may we have our pants… or shorts, now?"
"No. You're behavior last night was completely unacceptable. Your spankings were only the beginning of your punishments. You'll get your pants back when you begin to show real maturity."
"Please, don't make us do this. Pleeease," Bertie begged.
"Walter, are you of the same mind as Bertie?"
"I'd rather not go out like this," I said meekly.
"I know that. That's not the issue. The issue is that you boys have not yet learned that there are times when you must do things you would rather not do, like following orders. Now, let's go. The Lamberts are probably waiting for us in the lobby."
We had put forth the strongest protest we dared. We meekly followed her to the lobby. With nothing covering them, our baby pants crackled loudly. Jean-Claude was dressed exactly like us. We walked to the beach. Only Marie-Claire was in a good mood, chatting all the way.
Bertie, Jean-Claude and I were in a quandary. Out bottoms were still sore from yesterday's spankings, so sitting on the beach blanket was out of the question. But, the alternative exposed us to even more notice. In the end (no pun intended), the pain won out and we asked if we could walk along the shore.
There was still unresolved tension between us and no one said anything for about a minute or so. Jean-Claude spoke first.
"None of us wants to sit down today, no?" he asked with an ironic smile.
"I sure don't," I answered.
"Me neither," Bertie added. "I would never have thought that Wally's grandmother could spank like that and I got ten more swats than him," he said with a certain pride in his voice.
"Ah," Jean-Claude commented, "then my papa was right. He thought that you would get a spanking last night."
"Yeah, we sure did, and all because you won't apologize. Come on, just do it and maybe all of this will stop," I practically begged.
"But I have nothing to apologize for!" Jean-Claude insisted again.
"What? You still think that we have no right to be embarrassed because of the clothes my grandmother makes us wear? Look at yourself! Are you comfortable wearing baby pants in public?"
"No, but that is not the point," he insisted. "The point is that one should not care about what other people think. I am still right."
I was getting hot under the collar. No wonder the Unites States and France were always arguing with each other; these French people didn't know how to think! I turned around and started to leave.
"No," Bertie said. "Don't leave. Your grandmother will know that we were fighting again. Please, no more spankings."
"Ok, I'll stay," I said reluctantly. Turning to Jean-Claude, I added, "You are so stubborn."
"I am not. I am right!" he retorted.
"Whoa, you two. Let's talk about something else," Bertie interjected.
We discussed school and friends. Jean-Claude enjoyed Bertie's tale about starting his teacher's pants on fire and we sympathized with him for having to attend a strict English boarding school. By the time we returned, I had almost forgotten about our humiliating attire and I had completely forgotten about last night's spanking. I plopped myself down on the beach blanket.
"Owww!" I wailed to everybody's amusement.
We didn't stay very long at the beach after lunch. Mrs. Lambert and my grandmother said that they had several errands to run. This was worrisome. Every time my grandmother ran an errand or went shopping Bertie and I seemed to wind up with a new set of clothes that was even more unacceptable than the last batch (although I couldn't imagine how our clothes could get any worse). However, I wasn't blind to the threat that my grandmother and Mrs. Lambert posed in going shopping together. I hoped that it was Jean-Claude who was the intended recipient of their attentions. Why couldn't Jean-Claude sense the danger? Why didn't he just apologize and put an end to his baby treatment? The principle he was defending just didn't seem worth the punishment.
We spent the afternoon in my grandmother's suite in the care of Mr. Lambert. I know that we were all quite happy when he changed us into plain daytime diapers and plain white plastic pants. The weather had turned quite warm so we shed our t-shirts. If I had to wear diapers, this is how I preferred to be dressed—in plain white plastic pants that rustled but didn't crackle.
Late in the afternoon, the telephone rang. It was my grandmother; she asked to speak to Mr. Lambert. He switched to French, which made me a little nervous until I realized that Jean-Claude could let us know what the conversation was about. He listened to his dad without obvious emotion or worry.
"Your grandmother asked my papa to give us our baths and to dress us in nighttime diapers, short white socks, and white patent leather t-strap shoes. Do you know why?" Jean-Claude asked us.
We weren't sure but we didn't like it. We resigned ourselves to another night out dressed as babies in rompers or some such outfits. We didn't even come close to imagining what we were in for.
My grandmother and Mrs. Lambert returned just before six o'clock. They each carried a small package—much too small to contain any new outfits for us, I was very glad to see. They asked Mr. Lambert about our behavior and he gave us glowing reports (even though Jean-Claude and I had had a couple of minor scuffles over his refusal to apologize).
"Good," she said, patting Bertie and me on the head as if we were puppies in training. "So," she added, looking toward Mr. and Mrs. Lambert, "we'll meet at seven o'clock in the lobby?"
The Lamberts left and my grandmother went into her room to freshen up.
"Well at least they didn't get us anything new," I said with relief.
"I guess not," Bertie agreed, "but I wonder…"
"You wonder what?"
"I don't know. It's just that this morning your grandmother said that our punishment was only beginning. Something doesn't feel right."
I had the same feeling but I didn't want to imagine what it could mean.
"Would you stop worrying? Mr. Lambert said our behavior was outstanding this afternoon and we didn't fight all morning either. There's no reason for my grandmother to make our punishment worse."
"Well, maybe. I hope you're right," he said very unconvinced.
At a quarter to seven, my grandmother came out of her room. She was dressed rather casually so I assumed that this meant that we weren't going any place fancy. I was happy that this seemed to rule out our having to wear those awful satin rompers again.
"OK, boys. Time to get you ready."
Bertie and I started walking toward our bedroom.
"No, we can get you ready right here. It's so warm today that Mrs. Lambert and I decided that we would take dinner at an outdoor café. We're going to keep everything casual."
The word casual cut through me like a sword. I feared that I wasn't going to like the definition of casual. A sideways glance toward Bertie confirmed that he was worried, too. She picked up the small package she had brought back from her shopping, unwrapped it, and took out a white t-shirt. As she unfolded it, I saw how short it was. Also, it had snaps along the top of the left shoulder.
"Come here, Walter, and put your shirt on."
The awful truth came crashing down on me. We hadn't been allowed to wear pants at all today and that would continue through dinner, too. I wanted to scream out in protest but the look in my grandmother's eye made me change my mind.
"But we were good today, all day," I protested. "Can't we wear something over our diapers tonight?"
"Yes, you were good today," she agreed. "And you will be good tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. Eventually, you will be good because you want to be, not because you fear punishment."
So that was the plan. But how long would it last? We were leaving Cannes soon. We wouldn't be traveling in just diapers and baby t-shirts, would we? In the meantime, though, there was plenty to worry about. Where were we going tonight? Would we walk to the café? And, most importantly, how could I best hide the fact that my t-shirt was so short that it left a one-inch gap between it and my plastic pants?
Grandma hustled us down to the lobby before we had a lot of time to think about our plight. The Lamberts were waiting for us. Once again I took great delight in seeing that Jean-Claude was worse off than us. In addition to his babyish attire he was also sucking on a pacifier. His eyes were red as if he had just been crying. There was no way that he could continue to insist that his clothes weren't embarrassing.
"Jean-Claude will be somewhat silent until we reach the café," Mr. Lambert informed us. "He did a rather unkind thing to his sister before coming downstairs."
Jean-Claude obviously wanted to explain his side of the story but he was undoubtedly too afraid to take the pacifier out of his mouth. Instead, he grunted loudly and stalked off in front of us. We followed him all the way to the café. Needless to say, we got lots of stares and gasps as we passed by. The locals, whom I was beginning to recognize, paid no attention to us.
Jean-Pierre's mother removed his pacifier after we were seated. He was sitting between his mom and dad.
"Now, Jean-Pierre, you will behave courteously to everyone tonight. You will not be disagreeable in any way, understood?" his father warned.
"Yes, papa," the chastised boy responded.
Grandma and the Lamberts began discussing the current political situation. I turned my attention to Marie-Claire to try to find out what had happened before they came down to the lobby.
"Ah," she said, "my brother hit me for no reason."
"He hit you!" I exclaimed, hoping that she would provide more details.
"Yes, I called him a bébé and he hit me."
Jean-Claude turned scarlet with rage. I could see the wheels turning in his head. How could he counter his sister's story without getting into more trouble? I guess he couldn't think of a way because he merely looked down at the table and sighed. I decided to ask him if he was ready to apologize to Bertie and me. This really set him off.
"How many times do I have to say it?" he shouted. "I have nothing to apologize for! You are in the wrong to think that other people's opinions about your clothes are so important."
Mrs. Lambert reacted immediately. She spoke to him in hurried French and started shoving the pacifier back into his mouth. He resisted taking it, answering her in equally rapid French. Boy, I thought, is he ever in trouble now." I became aware that my grandmother was staring at me.
"But I asked a polite question," I explained defensively.
"It was rude of you to try to embarrass Jean-Claude publicly. Your question should have been asked privately where Jean-Claude could have had a chance to gracefully retract his statement. Putting him on the stop like that was a disagreeable thing to do."
She opened her purse. I became terrified as she took out a pacifier.
"I think a little quiet time will do you good, too" she said.
Tears of humiliation started streaming down my face even before my mouth closed around the pacifier. This wasn't fair. It was all Jean-Claude's fault. My misery was further increased by the smug look on Bertie's face.
"Bertie," my grandmother asked icily, "do you think that this is funny?"
"No, ma'am," he answered quietly.
"Then why were you smiling?"
"I wasn't smiling… I mean, I was, but…"
"You don't seem to be able to make up your mind. I believe you're lying, which is certainly a disagreeable trait. What would your parents think?"
That last question really hit home. Bertie's face fell. Tears came into his eyes, probably as he contemplated being sent off to military school.
"I'm sorry… I was laughing at Bertie and Jean-Claude," he admitted.
She reached into her purse and pulled out a pacifier for him, too. For the rest of the meal we had to suck on our pacifiers, except for the brief time when we were actually eating. Back in our hotel room, grandma announced that we wouldn't be spanked that night. (She believed that spankings should not occur on successive days and no more than twice in one week.) She may have thought that this was merciful but I remained a nervous wreck until our spankings actually took place two days later. This time Bertie and I received the same number of swats—thirty-five.
Needless to say, I wasn't very sad to say goodbye to Jean-Claude. My grandmother dressed Bertie and me in our yellow play outfits to go to the railroad station. As much as I hated wearing it, I was relieved to have my diapers and plastic pants covered up for the first time in three days. I was shocked to see that Jean-Claude was apparently going to ride all the way to Paris dressed in a baby t-shirt, diapers, and plastic pants. I was very careful not to do anything that would suggest that I was insulting him or making fun of him. (I had had quite enough of spankings, thank you.)
"I hope these will be useful," my grandmother said, handing a package to Mrs. Lambert.
We all shook hands. Bertie and I wished Jean-Claude good luck. He responded with a smile, saying that we had already brought him good luck. I was confused. I would have to ask Bertie what he thought that meant. The train pulled out and we went to lunch.
Part 6 – Secrets Unveiled
We left Cannes the day after Jean-Claude and his family did. We were bound for Lausanne, Switzerland.
"Grandma, what are we going to do in Switzerland?" I asked.
"Mostly touring. The Alps are very beautiful at this time of the year. First, however, we have some appointments to keep."
I waited a few seconds for her to explain but she didn't. I didn't push it. We were back to dressing in 'typical' European boys' clothes and I didn't want to pester my grandmother with questions that she might find annoying. The only thing that could have improved the day was if we could have worn long pants. The European-style shorts that she insisted we wear made it practically impossible to hide our plastic pants when we sat down. Considering everything we had been through in Cannes, I certainly wasn't going to argue the point.
Cannes reminded me of the question I wanted to ask Bertie.
"When we said goodbye, why do you think Jean-Claude was smiling and why did he say that we had brought him good luck? That doesn't make any sense."
"Can I tell Bertie what I think, Mrs. Pearlsmith?" Bertie asked.
"Certainly you may, dear," she gently corrected. "You may say anything as long as you're not unkind or gossiping."
Bertie considered his answer carefully.
"I think that Jean-Claude wasn't being honest with us the whole time."
"I know that," I answered curtly. "That was the whole problem. If he had only admitted that he was embarrassed to be seen wearing baby clothes, a lot of stuff wouldn't have happened."
I didn't want to make direct reference to the spankings and humiliation I had felt while being paraded around Cannes dressed like a baby.
"No, that's not what I mean. I mean that Jean-Claude should have told his parents that he wanted to be treated like a baby and dressed in baby clothes… and all the other stuff."
"What? You think he wanted to get spanked and then wear baby pants and rompers?"
"Yeah," he answered simply.
I was going to argue with him but I didn't know where to start. The whole idea was just too preposterous.
"That's very perceptive of you," my grandmother said.
"What?" I exclaimed. "You mean that Bertie's right?!"
"Yes, and his parents knew it all along," she added.
"But if everybody knew that, why didn't somebody say something? And how come Bertie and me… Bertie and I," I corrected myself, "got punished for it?"
"You were punished for being argumentative and impolite to a guest. Regardless of Jean-Claude's motivations, your behavior was unacceptable and needed correction."
I thought about this for a while.
"What do you think will happen to Jean-Claude?" I asked my grandmother.
"I'm not sure, dear. I do know that his parents gave him the choice of what he wanted to wear on the train to Paris… and you saw what he chose. Mrs. Lambert also said that she and her husband were thinking of withdrawing Jean-Claude from boarding school. They believe that he would be happier at home with them. And," she said with a small chuckle, "they don't imagine that his boarding school would allow him to go around in diapers and plastic pants. I think that he and his parents will reach a happy agreement about his desires to be treated like a baby."
I was totally shocked. I had never thought of diapers and plastic pants as playthings. All my life, my dependence on diapers had been a source of shame to me.
Suddenly, a completely different thought popped into my head.
"Grandma, what was in the package you gave to Mrs. Lambert?"
"The baby t-shirts that you and Bertie wore in Cannes. I hope we won't ever need anything like that again."
Me too, I thought.
The train ride to Lausanne started out long and boring. I wasn't interested in the scenery and the book that I brought along to read wasn't all that great. My grandmother saw my fidgeting.
"Why don't you and Bertie take a walk through the train? You might find some boys your own age to talk to."
While this sounded interesting I was afraid of what guys my age would think if they noticed my diapers and plastic pants. Bertie didn't share these reservations.
"Neat!" he said, jumping up. "Come on, Wally, let's go."
"I don't feel like it," I answered.
"Aw, come on. Yes, you do. Don't be scared. So what if people notice our diapers and plastic pants?"
"You're starting to sound like Jean-Claude," I answered heatedly.
"Walter," my grandmother warned, "don't be disagreeable. Now, run along. If you don't want to talk to people, you can at least walk up and down the length of the train once. And don't come back for at least a half-hour."
Bertie and I left. There was no one interesting in the first car we passed through. The train wasn't really full either. In the second car I stopped dead in my tracks. A certain girl had locked eyes with me. It was Cynthia, the girl who saw me faint in the store in New York.
"What's the matter?" Bertie asked, bumping into me.
Before I could answer Cynthia said hello to me.
"You know that girl?" Bertie asked in surprise.
"Sort of," I answered with a sinking feeling. (I hadn't told Bertie about my fainting spell in Mrs. Talbot's store.)
I introduced Bertie and she introduced us to her father and mother (whom I had already met.) She asked if she could go with Bertie and me to the observation car. We found some seats and talked for a while. She asked us about our trip and where we had been and what we had seen. She and her parents arrived in France a week earlier and had spent five days in Paris and then had come down to Cannes for two days. They were on their way to some village in Switzerland where her mother was born.
Bertie eventually asked the question I had been dreading.
"How come you know each other?"
"Umm," I hesitated.
"We accidentally bumped into each other in a store in New York last month."
"Oh?" he answered with interest.
"Uh, yeah," I agreed.
Much to my relief, Cynthia changed the subject.
"I'm getting hungry. Do you want to find out when we can eat lunch?"
We trooped back to where Cynthia's parents were sitting.
"The dining car is open now," Cynthia's mother answered. "Who are you boys traveling with? Perhaps they would like to join us for lunch."
I explained that we were traveling with my grandmother. Bertie and I went back to our seats to tell her that we had received a lunch invitation and that the people had invited her, too. She accepted without even asking me who these people were. (I told you earlier that she wasn't a snob.) I wanted to prepare her for meeting Cynthia again so that she wouldn't say anything about my fainting spell.
"Grandma, do you remember the girl I bumped into in the store in New York? You know, the girl who was buying the new dress. Well, she's the one we met. She's traveling with her parents."
"Isn't that a coincidence?" she marveled. "Well, let's not keep them waiting."
Lunch was fun. My grandmother and Cynthia's parents sat at one table and Cynthia, Bertie, and I sat across the aisle from them. We asked her all kinds of questions about growing up in a big city like New York. We were surprised to find out that she had never visited the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. Things got a little complicated when she asked us about where we lived. I explained that I lived in Springfield, Illinois and that Bertie was from Wilmington, Delaware.
"Are you cousins?" she asked perplexed.
Bertie went into a long explanation about how we had come over together on the USS America and how his parents had let him continue his trip with my grandmother and me while they went on a shorter trip through England and Scotland.
"Wow, I guess you guys must have a lot in common. I mean, to become friends so fast."
"We do," Bertie agreed, "and not just our diapers!"
I wanted to throttle him for mentioning diapers. He noticed my reaction.
"Well, it's not like Cynthia doesn't know about them, right?"
That wasn't the point. It was bad enough having people know that I had to wear diapers, talking about them out loud was unbearable. Cynthia must have seen how uncomfortable and embarrassed I was because she changed the subject again. I don't remember much about the rest of our time together. They got off the train shortly after we crossed into Switzerland.
We arrived in Lausanne late in the afternoon. We checked into our hotel and waited for dinnertime. My grandmother suggested that Bertie and I wear our gray suits. Except for the short pants and shiny black patent leather t-strap shoes, these were the most 'grown-up' clothes we had been allowed to wear in weeks.
That night, after we went to bed, Bertie asked me about how I really met Cynthia.
"What do you mean? I told you. We just accidentally bumped into each other in a store."
"Yeah, right," he said skeptically. "Every time you and Cynthia said bumped into each other it sounded like you were talking in code. Come on, I'm dying to know. Tell me the whole story."
I repeated my claim that there was nothing to tell. He started getting annoyed with me saying that he had told me all his dark secrets and that I hadn't told him any of mine. This made me feel guilty so I told him everything, starting with my wetting accident in the lobby of the Empire State Building all the way through my fainting in the store when Cynthia caught sight of me wearing nothing but diapers and plastic pants.
Bertie didn't say anything for a few seconds.
"This isn't a criticism, Wally, but you've got to stop worrying so much about what other people think about your diapers. You need to wear them, so stop focusing on them so much. You're a nice guy. Once people get to know you they won't care one way or the other. Take Cynthia for example. She knew all about your diapers but didn't tease you or even refer to them once all afternoon."
I didn't get the chance to respond. My grandmother came in and told us that it was time to stop talking. Considering what we knew about her ability to administer spankings we kept quiet and went to sleep. But, before I fell asleep, I thought about Bertie's words. I knew he was right but I didn't know how to make myself change. My feelings in that area were totally beyond my control.
The next morning I again asked my grandmother why we had come to Lausanne.
"Sit down, Walter. I have something to tell you."
I immediately started getting nervous.
"There is a very famous clinic here run by a Dr. Drieau. He specializes in helping people like you who have wetting problems. A couple of months ago, I arranged an appointment so that we could get the best help possible for you."
"Am I really sick?" I asked with a quavering voice.
"Oh, no, dear," she said, giving me a hug. "I didn't mean to scare you. I just wanted you to be seen by the world's specialist in wetting problems."
"You mean, he might be able to cure me?"
"Well," my grandmother said softly, "let's not get our hopes up yet. Let's go into this with the attitude that we have nothing to lose and maybe something to gain. OK?"
"OK," I answered, disappointed that my grandmother didn't think that I could be cured.
I was admitted into the clinic that morning and had to spend an overnight. While I was there I was x-rayed and all sorts of measurements were recorded, including how much I wet at one time and how strong the flow was. Some of the tests were rally embarrassing but the worst part was having to wear a catheter. I hated it. The doctor said that I had to because recordings were going to be made hourly during the day and every three hours during the night. I was very happy to be released the next afternoon.
"Madame," the doctor said to my grandmother, "I will need about two days to evaluate the results and to consult with my colleagues. I will be prepared to give you a full report Friday morning."
Despite my grandmother's and Bertie's best efforts I was very distracted as we toured the Alpine countryside. I tried to concentrate on my surroundings but I kept falling into fits of wild hopefulness followed by deep melancholy. I was a nervous wreck by the time we went into the appointment.
"I will not keep you in suspense," the doctor declared. "The results are very clear. I am sorry that there is nothing we can do at this time. I am afraid that the neurological disorder that is causing this problem is beyond our knowledge to cure or to control. However, I have some good news, as small as it is. Your other tests show that you are in otherwise perfect health. And, who knows? Perhaps in a few years we will discover something that may help. Again, I am very sorry but there is nothing we can do at this moment."
"Thank you, doctor," my grandmother answered for me. "You have our address in America. You will contact us if a new treatment should come along, won't you?"
That was that. I thought that I had been successful in keeping my hopes down but I guess I hadn't. As soon as we left the clinic I began to cry. My grandmother led us to a nearby café. Bertie and I sat at one table, and she sat a distance away at another.
"I'm really sorry," Bertie said with genuine sympathy.
"Thanks," I murmured through a sniffle.
"I know we haven't been friends for very long but I'm sure that we're going to be best friends forever. I've felt this ever since the day you wore the yellow play outfit in Central Park so that I wouldn't feel alone. I don't ever want you to feel alone, either… I promise that I'll keep on wearing diapers every day and every night until you get completely cured."
I was totally taken aback.
"You will?" I asked incredulously. "But what if your parents won't let you?"
"I'll force them," he said confidently. "I'll buy my own diapers and plastic pants and hide them if I have to, but I'll do it. I swear."
I realized that we lived about 800 miles from each other and that I'd never really know if he continued to wear diapers or not but at that moment the offer to do it meant more to me than if it really happened. Somehow, Bertie read my mind.
"I know that you think we live too far apart for you to check up on me. I'll figure out a way for you to know for sure that I'm really wearing them. Maybe my parents could vouch for me, or maybe some of my friends."
"You'd tell your friends?" I asked in surprise.
"Of course. Why not?"
I wiped my eyes and tried to smile.
"Then it's a deal," he said extending his hand so that we could shake on it.
Magically, two orange drinks appeared in front of us. A short while later my grandmother joined us. I was feeling much better. I think that she was very moved when I thanked her for arranging my visit to the clinic.
We left for northern France the next day. We spent two days touring the Champagne region where my grandmother did some purchasing for my dad. From there, we went on to Le Havre to board the SS France. As soon as we got on board, I understood what my grandmother had said about the USS America being past its prime. The France was in its second year of service and everything was still very new and modern looking. I didn't really appreciate it at the time, but the first-class dining room was said to be the best restaurant in the world. Anyway, we got underway without any problems.
Bertie and I were back to our 'normal' clothes, which unfortunately included our 'play outfits.' These we wore in the morning and afternoon before changing into our suits for dinner. Even though there was a children's dining room on board, my grandmother arranged for us to eat in the main dining room. This meant wearing our grey suits with the short pants and black patent leather t-strap shoes. My grandmother didn't seem to understand the contradiction that we represented to our fellow travelers. Dressing us like pre-school age children in the morning and afternoon and then allowing us to eat dinner with her in the main dining room at night caused most people to think that we were precocious seven year olds. (I'm sure that our diminutive size and our obvious diaper wearing helped to reinforce that impression.)
The closer we got to New York, the sadder Bertie and I became. Soon, we would be saying goodbye for who knew how long. I was looking forward to seeing my other friends but I also felt that there was something special in this friendship that I had never experienced before. I know that he felt the same way. We made grand promises to write each other about everything important that would happen to us but, even in the fervor of the moment, we knew that that was unlikely. Also, Bertie had an even greater concern weighing him down. Where would he go to school next year?
The second night out I was having trouble falling asleep. I thought that I heard Bertie sniffle a couple of times.
"Are you coming down with a cold?" I asked in the darkness.
"No," he answered in a strained voice.
It was then that I knew he was crying. I got out of my bed and knelt down by his.
"What's wrong?" I whispered.
"Everything," he said, rolling over to face me. "You've been the best friend I've ever had and we'll probably never see each other again. And, my parents are going to send me away to some awful military school with kids that I'll hate."
Deep sobs wracked his whole body. I put my hand on his shoulder and tried to comfort him.
"Don't say that. We'll find ways to see each other again. We can meet during vacations and in the summertime. Some day we can try to get into the same university. You'll see, it won't be that bad."
"That's easy for you to say. You'll be living at home with your parents and the friends you've had all your life. My parents don't even want me to live with them and I'll be far away from home and all alone," he sobbed.
I didn't know what to say. I sat on his bed and rubbed his shoulder until he calmed down. I'm glad it was dark so that I could hide the tears that were running down my cheeks. I didn't sleep at all that night. As soon as I heard my grandmother moving about the next morning, I told her everything that had happened.
"Poor Bertie," she said. "Well, at least I can straighten him out on one thing. His parents are definitely not going to send him away to school again."
"They're not?" I asked excitedly. I was so happy for him. "Are you going to tell him this morning?"
"Of course. I want to ease Bertie's mind as soon as possible. Now, let's get you changed and dressed."
I wished that my grandmother hadn't made me wear the yellow play outfit. However, I was so anxious to see Bertie's face when my grandmother told him the news that I really didn't care what I was wearing. Bertie finally got up. My grandmother and I were in the sitting room.
"Do you want to get dressed now?" she asked.
"Yes, please," he answered.
"Alright, we'll do that in just a minute." she answered. "Come in and sit down first. I have something to say to you. Walter told me that you were upset last night about the possibility of your parents sending you to a military school. I want you to know that they have absolutely decided never to send you away to boarding school again."
"Really? I mean, how do you know?"
My grandmother smiled a little bit and said, "Your parents told me a lot about you on the boat over. They really love you very much. They sent you away to boarding school because they thought that you would be able to make friends more easily that way. The whole time that you were away they missed you very much. Because you always came back from school with exciting stories about the things you and your friends did together, they didn't want to suggest that you stay at home. Even after the first school asked you to leave, they thought that you would be disappointed if they didn't send you to another boarding school."
"Why didn't they ask for my opinion?" he said in a disappointed tone.
"Why didn't you tell them how you really felt about boarding school?" she countered. "Sometimes it's difficult to speak our true feelings. I hope that you will always tell your parents what you really think and feel. I know that they're going to try to do the same for you."
Bertie's mood immediately changed for the better. I heard him and my grandmother laughing the whole time that he got changed and dressed for the day. He came back into the sitting room wearing his yellow play outfit. My grandmother went to her room to prepare herself for an engagement she had with some of the ladies onboard.
"Did my grandmother make you wear that?" I asked.
"No," he answered with a smile, "I asked her if I could wear it. It's my turn to say that I didn't want you to feel alone."
The fact that we were getting along so well made our impeding separation all the harder to deal with. We spent our remaining days close together and we talked very late into the night. (My grandmother must have known we were doing this but she never came in to tell us to be quiet.) On our last full day on board it occurred to Bertie and me that we didn't know what the arrangements were for Bertie.
"Are my parents going to meet the boat in New York?" he asked.
"I wondered when you were going to ask that," she laughed. "I received a cable from them this morning. They won't be able to pick you up in New York. Instead, they'll pick you up at Walter's house in Springfield. Is that OK?"
"I'm going to Springfield with you? Neat!" he exclaimed happily. "Is that OK with you, Wally?"
"Is it OK? It's great! You can meet my friends… I can show you my arrowhead collection… and we can do lots of other stuff. How long is Bertie going to stay, grandma?"
"Let's back up a little bit," she said clearly enjoying our happiness. "We have to get to Springfield first. We're scheduled to dock tomorrow morning at 9:30. We should get through customs no later than 11:30. We should have no problem making our 2:30 flight out of LaGuardia. With the one-hour time difference, we'll land in Springfield around 3:30. "
Bertie had never flown and the thought of taking a jet sounded exciting to him. I have to admit that I was apprehensive about my homecoming. This had nothing to do with my parents. It was because I was afraid of what my friends would think about my diapers. When I left for this vacation, my need for nighttime diapers had been a secret. Now, I was dependent on them twenty-four hours a day. I once again cursed my rotten luck. I told Bertie about my fears. He tried to reassure me with the same arguments I had already used on myself. He reminded me that I had to trust that my friends would support me no matter what. I wanted to believe this but I couldn't. For one thing, I doubted how loyal I would be if one of them suddenly started wearing diapers.
Our entry into port and the debarkation went as planned. We had plenty of time to get to LaGuardia and check in for our flight. We had lunch in a small restaurant inside the airport.
"Walter," my grandmother asked, "did you enjoy your first trip to Europe?"
I hesitated for a few seconds. On the whole, I had a good time. Meeting Bertie and having him along was by far the best part.
"Yes, grandma, I did… most of the time, anyway."
"Good. I'm glad. You know, it wasn't easy for me to punish you."
Why do adults always say that? I thought to myself. I bet she had a good night's sleep on those nights when our behinds were on fire from her spankings.
I thought it would be better not to voice my thoughts. "I know, grandma. I'm sorry if I misbehaved."
"And I'm sorry if I went too far with your punishments," she gallantly added.
We ate a few mouthfuls of lunch in silence.
"Walter, there's something I want you to know before we get home."
"What's that?" I asked somewhat nervously.
"Before this trip started, your parents and I discussed what we would do if Dr. Drieau said that nothing could be done for your condition. We knew that you would have a hard time telling your friends about it. So, last week, when it was clear that you would be staying in diapers for a while, your parents told your friends about your condition."
"My friends already know?" I asked. My eyes began filling with tears. "But why do they have to know?"
Of course I knew how unreasonable my question was. I guess I was still wishing for a miracle and that I would stop wearing diapers tomorrow.
"They'll never talk to me again," I said miserably. "They'll think I'm a baby."
"Don't say that," Bertie said. "You're not being fair to them. I think it was a good idea to tell them right away. This way they've had a week to get used to the idea."
"Yeah," I said churlishly, "they had all that extra time to think up ways to be mean to me."
"You are so stubborn!" Bertie said, exasperated. "Why are you so convinced that your friends are going to hate you all of a sudden?"
The flight home went too quickly. We landed in Springfield and were met by my parents. Bertie seemed very much at ease. I felt self-conscious. Our diapers and plastic pants seemed so obvious. Our European-style shorts did little to hide our bulging diapers or to muffle the rustling noises emitted by our plastic pants. It was one thing to be dressed like this on another continent but I was home now and would soon meet up with my friends. I was terrified.
During the drive to our house, my parents asked Bertie and me about our trip. I was surprised at how much my parents already knew about him and the things we had done. My grandmother's letters must have been very detailed. I noticed that nothing was said, or even alluded to, about our diapers. We turned into our driveway and I saw a big sign on butcher paper attached to our garage door. It read: "Welcome home, Wally and Bertie".
"Thanks, mom. Thanks, dad," I said.
"Don't thank us," my mom answered. "Danny, Kevin, and Peter put the sign up."
They were my best friends… my best friends who knew about my diapers. I gulped.
"Oh," I said quietly.
We got out of the car. A thought struck me.
"How did they know about Bertie?" I asked.
My mother laughed. "They were here quite often while you were away, asking for news about where you were and what you had been doing."
"Oh," I answered again.
"Anyway, my dad added, "you can ask them yourself. They're in the backyard. They insisted on having a barbecue in honor of your return."
I didn't know how to answer. I was glad that my friends were here but I wasn't ready to see them. I wanted to get back into 'American' clothes that would better hide my diapers. Bertie noticed my hesitation.
"Well, come on," he said. "I want to meet your friends!"
I felt trapped, sort of like I did in the store in New York when Cynthia saw me in my plastic pants and diaper. I didn't think that I was going to faint this time; I just wanted to be somewhere else. We walked around the garage into the backyard. A cheer went up and I looked around to see that my friends were there with their parents. I felt even more vulnerable.
Danny, Kevin, and Peter came over to say hello. I managed to croak out an introduction of Bertie. It took me a few minutes to relax enough to realize that no one was paying much attention to Bertie's and my clothes. We sat down at the picnic table and the guys started pumping me for information. Bertie joined in and my friends and I were soon back to normal. I asked them about the things that had happened while I was gone. They reported normal kinds of stuff: Andy Kelly had fallen out a tree and broken his wrist and Peter had gotten a five-band portable radio for his birthday. They had even listened to shortwave broadcasts from Europe while I was there.
"I wonder when we're going to eat," I asked.
My dad overheard me and answered, "As soon as the last couple arrives. They seem to be running a little late."
A few minutes later the couple arrived— Bertie's parents.
"Mom! Dad!" he said running to them.
Their reunion reminded me that Bertie seemed to be 'off the hook' with his parents. I was glad for him that he wouldn't be sent away to military school (or any boarding school again). I was disappointed, though, that they had come to Springfield so quickly to pick him up. I had hoped that he would spend a few days before going home to Delaware.
The food was prepared and we were shooed away from the picnic table so that the adults could use it.
"But where will we eat?" I asked.
"We can do what we always do," Peter answered. "We can sit on the ground."
"I don't want to sit on the ground," I retorted. "We can eat inside at the kitchen table."
"Nah, I don't want to do that," Kevin objected.
"Me either," Danny chimed in. "It's too hot to eat inside."
I was dying of embarrassment. If we sat on the ground, Bertie's and my plastic pants would be exposed.
Bertie understood my dilemma and whispered in my ear, "We can use napkins to cover up our diapers and plastic pants."
I was only slightly reassured but agreed. My doubts were quickly proven correct. Within a minute of sitting down a breeze lifted up Bertie's paper napkin clearly exposing his diaper and plastic pants. He pushed the napkin back with his hand but the damage had been done. Everyone had seen. I was burning with embarrassment that they guys now knew what my diapers and plastic pants looked like. I got up and ran into the house.
"What happened?" I heard my dad ask the guys.
I didn't hear their explanation. I ran to my room and shut the door. I sat on my bed and cried. I heard a knock on the door.
"Go away," I sniffled.
"It's grandma. Please let me in."
I didn't answer. A full minute went by and then another knock.
"Please, Walter," my grandmother said.
"OK," I agreed, opening the door.
I wiped my eyes and tried to calm myself. We sat next to each on the bed. She waited for me to calm down completely.
"I'm so sorry that our trip was such a failure," she sighed.
"But we had a great time… at least most of the time… and Bertie and I have become friends. Lots of good stuff happened."
I was amazed that our roles had shifted so quickly. I was trying to comfort her.
"Well, yes," she agreed, "but that isn't what I meant. I was going to tell you this later, but now might be better. Do you remember your physical exam before Christmas? (I did.) When your parents got the report back from the doctor they were… troubled. He said that your bladder wasn't growing at all. He told your mom and dad that there was no hope of you ever getting out of nighttime diapers and that it was almost certain that you would need daytime protection before too long. Well, as usual, I jumped in and said that that couldn't be possible—that I would take you to the best clinic in the world, and that we would get to the bottom of the problem and fix it. I'm sorry that it didn't work out that way. Well, anyway, the reason I deliberately exaggerated your diaper wearing in Europe was to make you feel less embarrassed around your friends if your problem couldn't be cured. I guess that didn't work out either. I'm sorry that I'm such a lousy grandmother."
I suddenly felt ashamed of myself. I was wallowing in self-pity for no reason whatsoever. My friends hadn't rejected me and they had even planned a party for my return.
"Grandma, it's not your fault. Don't feel bad, please," I begged. "It's like Bertie said—I've got to trust my friends. They've been nice to me and I'm not even giving them the chance to prove themselves. I'll think I'll go back to the barbecue," I announced.
"Good," she answered with a smile.
I don't know what was said while I was gone. I noticed that everybody had finished eating. The guys, including Bertie, were sitting cross-legged on the patio. I joined them, not caring that my diaper and plastic pants were exposed. I felt awkward for a few minutes until I got involved in what was going on. Mostly, Bertie and I talked about our trip.
At 9:00, Danny, Peter, and Kevin's and their parents left.
"Are you OK?" Bertie asked.
"Yeah. I guess you were right. I should have trusted my friends," I answered.
"OK, Bertie," Mr. Appleton announced. "It's time for us to leave, too. We'd better be getting on home."
"We're leaving for home right now?" Bertie asked in astonishment.
The adult began laughing.
"What's so funny?" Bertie and I asked.
"I think you should tell them," Bertie's dad said to my grandmother.
"Do you know who Mr. Kepper is?" my grandmother asked me.
"He's the Treasurer of my company and he takes care of my personal finances. He wants to retire and I've been wondering how to replace him. It just so happens that Mr. Appleton was looking to make a career change and he has all the qualifications I was looking for. He graciously accepted my offer. He will work alongside Mr. Kepper for six months before taking over completely."
"You mean we're going to move here… to Springfield?" Bertie asked excitedly.
"We already have," his dad answered. "As of last week, we live about a quarter of a mile from here."
Bertie and I whooped it up, dancing around the room, hugging everybody including each other. When we were finished, I realized that I had better not sit down again. My plastic pants were sure to leak if I did.
"Are you ready to go home now?" Bertie's mom asked.
"Almost," he answered sheepishly.
He desperately needed a diaper change, too. Our bags were taken out of our car and, since it was late, we were brought up to my room and changed into nighttime diapers. It was hot and humid so we asked if we could go without our sleepers and just wear t-shirts. I was so happy that I didn't care who might see my diapers as I helped him bring his suitcases out to his dad's car. They drove off and I went back into the house with my parents and grandmother.
"Are you happy?" my grandmother asked.
"Yes," I replied enthusiastically.
"Good," she answered. "I thought that you and Bertie might become good friends."
Part 7 – Settling In
I slept fitfully that first night. I kept waking up and thinking about Bertie and me. He had made a rash promise to me in Lausanne. Would he really keep on wearing diapers as long as I needed them? Did I want him to do that? If he wore diapers too, wouldn't that focus more attention on my diaper wearing? Also, I thought about Danny, Kevin, and Peter. Despite my earlier resolve, I was having trouble believing that they would remain loyal. Had they simply been curious? Would they really want to hang around with someone who constantly wet his pants? I knew that other kids wouldn't be as understanding. What would my friends do after my diaper wearing became public knowledge? (I had stopped deluding myself; I was ready to admit that it would be impossible to keep my diapers a secret.)
I got up a little after dawn. I went down to the kitchen to make myself a bowl of cereal. My dad joined me shortly afterwards.
"That diaper looks pretty heavy," he remarked.
I had gotten used to the new, thicker diapers that my grandmother had purchased in New York and London. This was the first time my dad had seen them. I guess that he needed time to get used to my new circumstances, too.
"Yeah," I answered, feeling somewhat shy, "these are really absorbent. Grandma says that shouldn't ever leak."
"I guess not," he answered. "Anyway, after breakfast I'll help you get changed."
If he was surprised by the thickness of my new daytime diapers and plastic pants he didn't say anything. I went over to my dresser to take out a pair of my 'regular' shorts. They weren't there.
"Grandma wrote to us about your new diapers and plastic pants. None of your old clothes will fit over them. You'll have to wear what you got for your trip."
"But I don't want my friends seeing me in those clothes!" I protested.
"I'm sorry but they were expensive and you'll just have to use them until you wear them out or outgrow them. Here, put on these brown shorts and this blue shirt."
This was a disaster. He handed me one of the 'short' European-styled shorts. I suppose it could have been worse. At least my old sneakers still fit.
A little while later, my heart skipped a beat when I heard Bertie show up. I was afraid that he wouldn't be in diapers anymore and that he would be wearing regular clothes again. My mom told him that he could come up to my room. I relaxed when I heard his plastic pants rustling as he walked down the hall; I smiled when I saw that he was in 'short' shorts, too.
"You're still in diapers?" I asked, stating the obvious.
"Well, I promised, didn't I?"
"Yeah, but what about your parents? Won't they…?"
Bertie cut me off in mid-question.
"I told them what I promised you," he stated matter-of-factly. "They won't make me break my w
my word. Anyway," he continued, "I came over to ask if you'd show me the neighborhood."
"Yeah, sure," I said haltingly, "I guess so."
"Well, if it's too much of a bother…" he answered peevishly.
"No, it's not. It's just …well, our clothes," I said pointing down to my bulging shorts.
"Look," he retorted somewhat impatiently, "you and me, we're in diapers for a long time. Peter, Kenny and Danny already know and they don't seem to care. As long as you've got friends… we've got friends who understand… who cares about anyone else?"
I admired his courage and I wanted to be as courageous as him but I was still hesitant. He must have seen it in my face.
"Be practical," he continued. "The sooner you get out there and let people see you, the sooner you'll be able to stop worrying about it."
"OK," I smiled weakly, "do you come by bike or did you walk?"
"I have my bike downstairs," he said running ahead of me down the stairs.
I walked my bike out of the garage and joined Bertie. He was already seated on his bike. I was appalled by the huge amount of plastic pants and diaper that were on display.
"Yeah," he said acknowledging my stare, "maybe we shouldn't bother wearing any shorts at all."
"Are you crazy?" I shouted in response.
"That was just a joke," he smirked. "Relax."
We met Peter at the first corner. He was on his bike, too.
"I was going over to your house to see if you wanted to do something," he explained.
I could feel my face turning red as Peter's eyes darted back and forth between Bertie's plastic pants and mine.
"Wally's showing me the neighborhood," Bertie answered before I found my voice.
"Can I come, too?" Peter asked.
"Sure," Bertie answered again.
Before we were finished, Danny and Kenny had joined us. There really wasn't much for Bertie to see. By the end of the tour he knew where each of us lived, and where the local market and park were located. Lastly, Bertie showed us where he lived.
It wasn't a brand new house so you could hardly tell that they had only just moved in. The only evidence of their recent occupancy was a large pile of used boxes in the garage and stacks of wall hangings inside the house still waiting to be put up. We said hello to Mrs. Appleton and went up to Bertie's room. He still had a lot of stuff to put away. I was appalled that he had stacks of diapers and plastic pants openly sitting on the floor. Kenny was the first one to say something about them.
"Wow," he exclaimed, "you sure have a lot of diapers and stuff!"
"Naturally," Bertie answered. "You'd have this much underwear, too, if you had to change six or seven times a day like Wally and I have to."
I wasn't very pleased about the direction of this conversation but Kenny spoke up again before I could change the subject.
"How come you've got two kinds of diapers?" (He had noticed that some were flannel and some were terry toweling.)
"The flannel ones are for daytime and the terry toweling are for nighttime." Bertie answered again. "The terry cloth ones are thicker and more absorbent so that they can last all night. The have bigger plastic pants, too. See?" Bertie asked holding up a pair of nighttime plastic pants.
My face was burning with embarrassment. It felt like my friends were undressing me in public—and Bertie was leading them on! To make matters worse, he invited the others to examine the plastic pants and diapers.
"Gee," Danny remarked, "I didn't think that the plastic pants would feel so soft. I guess they're not so bad to wear, are they?"
He looked over to me but I just stood there with my mouth open, too shocked to answer.
"They can get pretty hot, sometimes," Bertie explained. "But, normally they don't feel bad. They just make funny rustling sounds, that's all."
"Yeah, we noticed," Peter said.
This had gone far enough. I needed to change the subject. I had noticed that one wall of the bedroom had no furniture against it.
"How come that wall doesn't have any furniture?" I asked.
"That's where my changing table is going—when it arrives." Bertie answered.
I didn't know if the other guys knew what a changing table was, but I did. I had had one in my room until I was nine. It took a whole year of begging before my parents agreed to take it down. I could have kicked myself for asking about that wall.
"What' a changing table?" Danny asked.
"It's sort of like an examination table in the doctor's office," Bertie answered. "Only it stays flat. You lie down on it while your diapers get changed. It's also got space underneath to store diapers, pins, plastic pants, powder, baby oil, and stuff like that."
"You mean that you guys don't change your own diapers?" Peter asked in surprise.
I could have died right there but Bertie seemed completely unfazed.
"That's right; it's not like just changing your underwear, you know. You have to make sure that it's pinned on tight and that none of the diaper is sticking out of the plastic pants. Besides, if you're not completely clean after each change you could get a diaper rash."
"Oh," Peter responded, "I guess it's more complicated than I thought."
"Right," Bertie agreed. "That's why I need a changing table to store everything and to make it easier for my parents to change me."
This 'diaper talk' was killing me. I wished that Bertie would just shut up. In my opinion, he had blabbed way more about our diapers that I wanted anyone to know about but I was at a loss as to how to stop him. Luckily, Mrs. Appleton interrupted us.
"Boys it's almost lunchtime. You should be running along home."
We started moving downstairs.
"Bertie. Walter." she continued. "Don't go anywhere. I need to check you… Can you boys find your own way out?" she asked Danny, Peter, and Kenny.
I could feel my face turning red again. The guys gave me and Bertie funny looks. As they headed downstairs I heard the words 'diapers' and 'plastic pants' whispered between them. I felt myself on the verge of tears. Mrs. Appleton noticed.
"Oh, Walter, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to embarrass you. I just thought that it had been a while since you had been changed… and since the other boys already knew…"
"It's OK," I said in a choked voice as I tried to discretely wipe the tears out of my eyes.
Bertie had been busily getting the fresh diapers ready. He had laid a diaper pad on the bed and gotten two diapers and two plastic pants ready. I had recovered from my shock.
"I can go home to get changed," I said.
"Actually," Mrs. Aplleton explained, "That's another reason I asked for you to stay up here. Your mom called looking for you a few minutes ago. She wanted you to know that she would be going shopping in a little while and that you should come straight home for lunch. I told her that you would be welcome to have lunch with us. She said it was OK."
I was glad to stay for lunch. The thought of Mrs. Appleton changing me did make me feel a little funny, though. As I was lying there I began to think about how many people had changed me in the last couple of months. There were my mom and dad, of course, and then my grandmother, Bertie, Mr. Appleton, and now Mrs. Appleton. Oh, and I almost forgot Louise, Mrs. Brackentorpe's maid and Mr. Lambert, Jean-Claude's dad. I then started thinking about how many people had seen my diapers. Luckily, the majority of them were in Europe and New York. I wondered how many stories were circulating in the various hotels we had stayed in about the 'American boys' in diapers and baby clothes. I was drawn out of my reverie by Mrs. Appleton who asked me to stand up so that I could pull on my plastic pants. Bertie took my place on the changing pad.
"Mom, can Wally and I do what we talked about last night?"
"Yes, honey, you may. But Walter will have to make up his own mind… and no pressure."
I stopped trying to figure out which one of the identical pairs of shorts was mine and turned around to face Bertie. He smiled sheepishly at me from the bed.
"I was thinking about the time when you and me stayed in the hotel room in Cannes with Jean-Claude dressed in just our diapers. It felt so good not having to wear tight shorts or pants over them that I asked my parents if I could do the same thing when I'm home. You know, like now."
Actually, the idea sounded pretty good but there was still a shyness in me that made me hesitate.
"I don't know," I answered. "What if someone saw us?"
"I'm only talking about doing this when I'm alone or it's only us together."
"Well, OK," I agreed. "I guess that would be alright."
"Can we leave our shirts off, too?" Bertie asked his mom.
"Yes, dear, but wait until after you've left the table," she answered.
As soon as lunch was over we went back to Bertie's room. He immediately removed his shirt and I followed suit—it really was cooler and more comfortable this way—and we sat down cross-legged on the floor. Before we got side tracked by anything else, I came back to the morning's events that had bothered me.
"Why did you bring us up here when you knew that your diapers and plastic pants were lying around all over the place? And why did you answer all those questions about our diaper changes?" I asked heatedly.
Bertie sighed and answered in a strained voice, "Because the more Danny, Peter, and Kenny know about all that stuff, the less they will wonder about it. Whenever we get together for a long time, at least one of us will need a diaper change. It they know all about what that means, they'll think it's 'normal.' If we try to keep it a big secret they might start wondering about it and talking about us behind our backs."
"I don't kn…" I began.
"Bertie's right," Kenny's voice said from behind me.
I gasped and jumped up at the same time. I turned around and stared right at Kenny, Danny, and Peter. I was frozen in place, much like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. I was terribly conscious of them staring at my diaper and plastic pants but I couldn't move or talk. The sounds of my breathing and of my heartbeat grew louder and louder in my ears. I also became conscious of Bertie standing next to me. Finally, I regained control of my body and I bolted from the room.
"Wait, don't go," Peter said.
I didn't react. I was at the head of the stairs just about ready to go down. Everyone had come out into the hallway.
"Where do you think you can go dressed like that?" I heard Bertie ask.
I froze again, feeling doubly foolish.
"It's OK. We understand. Come back," the others said in a jumble of voices.
I sheepishly headed back to the bedroom not daring to look anyone in the eye. Bertie started laughing.
"Boy, Wally, you really had me scared. I thought I'd have to chase you down the street in just my diapers to get you to come back. I want people in the neighborhood to notice me, but not that way!"
Suddenly, I reacted in a most uncharacteristic way. I started laughing, too, and, in no time at all, the others joined in. It was a full ten minutes before we managed to get our giggles under control. Our sides ached and we had tears in our eyes.