“Alright, OT.” Lindz says as Otis plays with the last remnants of his graham cracker dessert. “Is it bath time?”
Otis faux coughs a response, a recently developed game he’s developed to garner attention.
“You’ll be excited, OT.” Lindz continues, unfettered, already well accustomed to the coughing game. “Your Mommy got you some great new nipples for you.”
After a busy day running errands, including a toy swap meet at Riley Park Community Center and a stop at a children’s store to get a new gate for the top of the stairs as we’ve developed a worry about tripping over the raised threshold of the gate currently up there, especially after reading some reviews on line. Somehow the idea of tripping down the stairs while carrying baby OT seems less glamorous to us than it might sound.
Game 5 of Round 2 is on, 1st period just finished, Nashville has to win to survive and already Vancouver has an advantage. I’m more preoccupied with Don Cherry’s suit during the Coach’s Corner segment, a high collared velvet affair with a plum tight-knot tie like the Mayor of Munchkin Town. I want suits like Don’s, they’re wonderful, a Canadian national treasure. His Spud’s McKenzie doppelganger dog as well. Delightful.
I can hear Lindz upstairs with Otis now, getting him ready for the bath he loves so much, just like I did back as far as I can remember, farther than last week even. As a baby I’d share baths with my Mom, or so I’ve been told; and later with my brother, which I vaguely remember. Probably baptized each other with suds, who knows?
According to my Mom, both my brother and I treated the bathtub like a refreshments stand, sidling up to it like cowboys bellying up to the bar in some linoleum tiled saloon. My claim to fame entailed drinking an entire bottle of Johnson’s & Johnson’s No Tears Shampoo. Quick call to the doctor assured my Mom it would pass without issue. A few years later my brother would tilt back a bottle of Head & Shoulders, which lead to a trip to the emergency room, one of many for our family, though the only one from not knowing your limits at the bathroom bar.
One famous trip to the emergency room was my fault. I was pushing the grocery cart, my brother rode shotgun in the fold out seat gripping the handlebar for dear life. I decided to add some adventure and popped a small wheelie. He giggled and his glee egged me on. Thinking back now, he might have been squealing shrieks of terror and I would have been equally incited to action. Kids are evil. I popped a bigger wheelie, the cart upended, and my poor brother landed on his one new tooth, pushing it back up into his gum line. Those tears ans screams and crying I remember, as much from me as him, as he’d been thrown clear, I’d ended up under the surprisingly heavy wire mesh cart, pinned. I remember looking through a forest of adult feet and legs, trying to see my Mom’s. Years later in high school that baby tooth died, which got messy and required special attention. There was an abscess. It was gnarly. I felt guilty. Even now, recalling it, I want to give my brother more toys, the currency of our childhood, “I’m sorry… Please stop crying… Here, have this toy…”
The other big emergency room or health clinic trips during my youth were mine, particularly the one summer I received three separate tetanus shots, back when no one seemed to know in medicine that one shot could last a person a good ten years or more. The number I’ve had in my life; I’m probably good into my sixties. One time for stepping on a rusty nail, another for stepping through a stack of storm windows whereupon I got to learn what a sock and Nike sneaker full of blood feels like, and one time for something clutzy I did with my arm, I actually dno’t remember what, but I do remember that needle punching through muscle, or at least felt like it did, such that I couldn’t raise my arm to do jumping jacks if I’d wanted too for a few days after.
Once old enough to bathe solo and determine which toys to bring, bath time became an event. I had all my Star Wars figures, my Fisher-Price Action People aquatic set with purple octopus and bubble top submarine. Star Wars figures were arranged and graded by their natural buoyancy. Chewbacca and the Stormtrooper were tied at first place because both figures would float standing upright, likely because both lacked necks and probably had air bubbles trapped inside. The x-wing pilot Luke from Empire would float flat out, so he made second string, the rest arranged from there down a Who’s Who list of semi-articulated three and a quarter inch made in Hong Kong & Taiwan players. I’d be in so long my fingers would prune up and poorly rinsed shampoo hair would spike in unlikely pre-punk tufts. I’d have to add splashes of hot water periodically to keep the home spa viable as the lukewarm puddle cooled as much as a standing body of water can during the summertime in Tennessee.
Speaking of, never leave your play pool full of water standing overnight in Tennessee, especially for a couple days, or you’ll discover it full of frantically frolicking mosquito larvae, fun to watch but a hassle to dump out, rinse, and refill. Better to just up end the round plastic pattern printed play pool on the day.
As the kids got older the places we lived seemed to get smaller, partly relative, partly the relocation to the townhouse apartment in Lexington my folks could afford on their grad student salaries and student load subsidies. For instance, my brother and I went from sharing an A-frame attic bedroom with a reading nook in Telford to an A-frame bedroom with no reading nook and less room for dancing but the beds still had a runway between them at Washington College Academy to a single bedroom with room enough for bunk beds, a desk with a hand-me-down Apple 2c on it in Lexington, Kentucky. No wonder the high, A-frame ceiling in our house now helped assure me this would make the perfect starter home. I felt instantly comfortable, despite how tight AKA cozy many of the other aspects are. Telford had been open country, the nearest neighboring kid some mile away up the single lane road, my buddy Randal whose father raced funny cars. The move to Lexington meant moving into urban development, or at least, suburban, and the more dense a population populates, the smaller the living spaces get.
Small spaces full of people meant the bathroom became a sanctuary of sorts for as long as could be wrangled before fists began pounding on the door or the hot water ran out. And while I’ve long since moved out and had a myriad of places on my own or with roommates, the sense that a bathroom might be a veritable Fortress o Solitude has persisted. Whether a long shower after a tough day, like the song by Primus or the other one by Jane’s Addiction, or simply sitting on the throne reading a few chapters or scrolling through Facebook posts on the iPhone. Easier to “like” things when you’re in your happy place.
Back when I smoked, I’d sit on the throne, pants up and lid closed for hours beneath the loud fan reading Elmore Leonard pulps and occasionally eating Mac & Cheese from the pot it’d been made in. Washed down with a tasty pint. And that, friends, is good living.
Now that we have Otis in our midst, with all of his own toys and recent discovery of the magical knob that makes the waters of life flow from the faucet adorned with a rubber safety whale, I hope to ensure that bath time and the bathroom be as relaxing and place of refuge as I found it growing up. True, we’ll need to have more than one bathroom, ideally one for everyone, even Boomer, our 100 pound mutt, as everyone needs their own place to put all of their favorite bath toys.
Kudos to Lindzeeloo for the snaps of a Wookie at bath time