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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Locked in the Lavatory

I grew up singing a song called, “Three Young Ladies Locked in the Lavatory,” a whimsical romp about, well, three young ladies who got stuck in the bathroom, “and nobody knew they were there.” Each verse is bursting with risqué British humor. Like this one:

The first one her name was Elizabeth Humfries,

she only stopped by to make herself comfy

She tried to get up but could not get her bum free.

And nobody knew she was there.

Mom was the culprit. She taught us all manner of songs and rhymes when we were growing up. I don’t remember much I learned in school, but these songs are ingrained in my memory. (There's an animated version on YouTube at

Today, however, I have a real fear of Mom getting locked in the lavatory.

Part of the issue is that we don’t know how much can Mom still do on her own, and how much help she needs from us to accomplish intimate tasks, like going to the bathroom. Mom won’t ask for help. She seems incapable of asking for help; admitting to needing help is a sign of weakness. It has happened several times when we were out that Mom has gotten lost on the way to the bathroom, or locked herself in a stall only to be unable to unlock it.*

Next week, my parents are coming to visit for the holiday of Sukkot. I am happy they’ll be joining us. When they last came on Passover, packing Mom’s bag was an endless round of questions about what was in it, what clothes we had packed, where we were going. She got lost in my house, a place has stayed countless times, including while trying to find the bathroom. At our synagogue, Mom was frustrated at not being able to follow along in the prayer book. My friends were familiar to Mom, but she couldn’t place them. She gave great warm hellos then turned to ask me who they were.

Our job will be to help her without her realizing we are helping her. We must be vigilant, taking care of her needs, guiding her to where she needs to go, and finding ways to make her feel useful. And not least importantly, making sure she gets safely into and out of the lavatory.

Tonight begins the holiday of Yom Kippur, at once the hardest and most rewarding day in the Jewish calendar. We fast; we spend endless hours in prayer; we minutely examine our faults, flaws and failings; we accept that we are not perfect; and we ask for forgiveness both from God and from ourselves.

It is my hope that acknowledging our limitations and recognizing both our successes and failures, while at the same time accepting that our future is in God’s hands, helps to make us better people and more compassionate caregivers.

Looking ahead to Sukkot—a festival of great joy—here’s a fabulous recipe for butter-like roast beef.

Roast Beef

I couldn’t tell you what cut of beef is the best for roasting, but my favorite grocery store sells prepared cuts wrapped in string. Perfect! Cooking beef for a short time at a high temperature produces a succulent, tender taste.

1-2 kilo meat for roasting

1 Tbsp olive oil

3-4 sprigs dried rosemary or thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

2 onions roughly chopped

2 carrots sliced

6-8 garlic cloves whole and unpeeled


Preheat oven to 375°. Bring meat to room temperature about a half hour before putting in the oven. Place vegetables in a large pan and lay the roast on top. If the meat is untied, tie with string in 3 inch intervals. Rub all over with spices. Pour ¼ cup water in pan. Bake roast at 375° for 20 minutes per pound or per 500 grams. When meat is done, cover in a layer of foil and a towel for 20 minutes until meat is cool enough to slice. Use juices from pan to create gravy. If the vegetables are not cooked through, transfer to a small pan and cook on the stove top until carrots and garlic can be pierced easily by a knife.

*With tongue in cheek, here’s our additional verse to the lavatory song:

Another one’s name was Naomi Cohen.

She slipped down the drain and started a rowin’.

She tried to get back but the pressure was growing.

And nobody knew she was there.

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