When our sons were very small and prone to demonstrating the limits of their emotions, we encouraged them to exercise their juvenile right to temper tantrums – in the special space of their bedrooms. When they were a bit older, and interested in exploring all manner of scatalogical talk and expletives, we encouraged them to exercise their right to “bathroom” speech – in the bathroom.
Over time, the powder room off the kitchen acquired special meaning for our family. Like many families, we marked the growth of the boys and their friends on the edge of the door. But the door acquired a unique significance as it gradually became the site of wide range of speech and ideas, from an equally wide range of speakers (Heraclitus, Aristotle, Maimonides, St. Francis of Assisi, Buber, Ghandi, and many others). Our door eventually achieved some local notoriety for its layers of post-it notes and clippings that share proverbs, quotations and provocative information.
We began with the first eye-level posting for our (then) young sons as they negotiated the challenges of playground and ballfield:
Martin Luther King (paraphrase from Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963)
But it wasn’t long before the powder room “debates” took off, with the addition of a challenge from Winnie the Pooh:
A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh, 1928)
Among family and friends, the door collection is affectionately known as “Wittenburg’s 95 Feces,” but its many posts have, like Luther’s revolutionary theses, prompted reflection, discussion, laughter, controversy, disgust. It’s even led some to act.