The Story of a Chamber Pot

by cindy

Or when the past and the present collide in the most quirky of ways and I realize I have far more questions than answers and it pisses me off. Pun intended.


Chamber Pots. Seriously? After such a lengthy break from stories? After an effing world-wide Pandemic? A post-election pre-inauguration Insurrection? A bleepin’ new, unprovoked and unnecessary war in Ukraine? And you choose to write about CHAMBER POTS, Cindy????

Okay. Okay. I hear you.

And I am a bit mystified myself but when the Muse calls, and time allows, I answer that call. Yes. I totally blame. The. Muse.

And this particular Muse happens to be a chamber pot.

Over my seven-plus decades, I have amassed a surprisingly diverse collection of family memorabilia. I call myself, as noted elsewhere on this blog, The Keeper of the Stuff. As grandparents and parents passed on, my siblings and I divvied up the many bits of this and that, items of interest that held mildly meaningful memories for one reason or another. Most families do this, I believe, whether the treasures hold monetary value or not. And, for the most part, ours did not.

My collected treasures include a plethora of photographs and letters, quilts sewn by a great-grandmother along with, on one such quilt, her daughter, my grandmother, who hated to sew (it was the only quilt she ever made), a punch bowl used at Christmas by my mother, some etchings collected by a grandfather, pince-nez glasses worn by a great-grandmother. I also have one great-grandmother’s Victorian spoon jar, my mother’s original Shirley Temple doll, some odd bits of jewelry including one half of a pair of antique pearl earrings, and…

A chamber pot.

This chamber pot is not some fancy French porcelain, decorated with over-the-top florals tipped with gold. No. Not even close. And it never sat under an ornately, hand-carved chair of richest mahogany or polished cherry. Rather it is white enamel on metal, rimmed in red, with a tidy bucket-style handle and a lid. Oh yes! It has a lid! Nifty, eh?

The pot is quite functional for uses other than those “in the chamber”. It has carried produce and flowers from many a garden. It has carted cleaning supplies from room to room. It has served as a container for all sorts of things: legos or army men or even Barbie doll shoes of which there were millions in our basement, just waiting for a bare foot. It spent its life on a shelf in my mother’s laundry room, always at the ready for one practical purpose or another but only rarely for use as a chamber pot itself. And its use as a chamber pot was reserved for one specific visitor to our home.

I remember the visit. I remember the elderly visitor who independently travelled from London, navigating the ships, flights, airports, taxis, and trains, until there she was. In our house. In the bedroom I shared with my older sister.

She was sitting on my bed. With the red and white chamber pot perched on the rug beside it.

Her request to my mother, prior to her trip from England, had been this: Upon her arrival to our home, she would “take to bed” for a “full 48 hours” which she estimated would be enough time to “adjust to the time change and to recover” from her exhausting travels. She required “a chamber pot to be placed beside the bed” and a bell, placed on the bedside table, to ring when she “needed it to be emptied.” She requested tea and “p’haps some bread pudding” from time to time which my mother would serve to her when, again, she heard that bell. Only after this period of recovery would she then join the family. All eight of us. Recover? No, more like prepare. And small wonder that she needed to do that, what, with six of us kids just waiting to entertain her.

And it is with the memories of this visitor that my questions—those questions for which I no longer have hope for finding answers—begin to explode. I know the who: Betty Lengo and we always called her by her first and last names. She had befriended my parents in 1949 when my parents lived in London as my father studied additional treatments in the practice of urology. I know the year because my mother was pregnant with me at the time.

I do not know the how—how did they meet? Or the where—did she live in the same residential hotel as my parents in that war-ravaged city? What connected them? And how did that connection seal a friendship that thrived over the distance of one ocean and many decades of separation? Did she have a family? Children? Grandchildren? How and when did she die? Where is she buried? Who else remembers this woman with the bright, rather-unnaturally-red hair? With such a strong, upright bearing? And the delicious accent? My older sister would, but she too is gone. I am less sure about the memories my younger siblings might have.

(I know. I should ask them. But not right now. I am busy typing about a chamber pot, for crying out loud! Maybe they will actually read this and share their memories later. Hmm.)

Betty Lengo was charming. And funny. And almost mythical to the six of us. We were enchanted. I was entranced, mostly by the hair.

My mother, I’m certain, was exhausted.

I believe she visited us twice over the years and to my knowledge, those were the only times the chamber pot was used as…a…chamber pot.

Until now.

My Favorite Daughter and her husband, my Favorite Son-in-Law, have a house on top of a hill. (They call it a mountain. The West Virginian in me merely scoffs at that description.) Nevertheless, they generously encourage the family—as many as can make it—to visit during the summer. All at the same time. And we do. We are all gathering there soon. But since they are both pretty good at math, the daughter and son-in-law counted heads, counted beds, and realized that not all sleeping spaces would have easy access to a nighttime trek to a bathroom.

Do you see where this is heading? A-ha! you think. The Keeper of the Stuff actually SHARES the stuff!

Yep. In this case, the stuff I have shared bequeathed is, indeed, Betty Lengo’s Chamber Pot. It’s called repurposing. Or, maybe, reNEWed purposing? Anyway…

Last used for its intended purpose in the late ’50s or early ’60s, the chamber pot is now being called into service once again. After all this time, the pot—and its lid—will  be functioning as it was meant to function.

Now, however, Favorite Son-in-Law has made some serious upgrades. Surprising us with his wood-working skills, the Chamber Pot now is fitted with not only a comfy, slow-close toilet seat, but also sets of WHEELS! If the toilet paper rolls away, how perfect will those wheels be?

A Work in Progress


And how excited am I??


But being the generous (and cautiously wise) person that I am, I think I will let someone else test it out first.

I’d like to think that Betty Lengo would be proud, and grateful,…and wonder why this was not done for her comfort decades before. And if I could, I would share this story with her if, perhaps, all my questions could also be thoroughly answered:

Dear Betty Lengo,

I hope this story tickles your fancy. Although you might prefer to not be remembered in this particularly peculiar way, know you are indeed remembered. I wish I had asked questions while I had the chance to ask them. I wish I had listened more carefully to what was shared with me at the time of your visit. I wish my story about you and your very special place in our family lore could fill more than a blog post but there it is. The chamber pot will have to do. Cheerio!


Cindy, the one with the pigtails and the lisp.

Finished product, minus the chamber pot’s lid.


The Throne