“My Happy Place” The Marvelous, Magical, Mystical Powers of a Bath

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“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”

Sylvia Plath

I am a slave to hot water. It began in my childhood, at what age I cannot say for certain. I can envision myself and my two sisters bobbing around in our bathtub, a simple no frills fixture unlike the whirlpool spas of today. My mother, who instilled this love of baths in us, laid peacefully center.  It was those calming waters which somehow righted every wrong and made life at the end of the day oh so much more delightful.  “Can you start the tub?” we would call to my mother nightly and upon hearing the rumble of the water racing through the faucet, would immediately feel comforted.

As I grew into older childhood my nightly baths and love of, continued.  I remember bringing into the tub different props for amusement. My fondest memory involve the Barbie dolls which I would plunge into the water, their perfect bodies and pointed toes gracefully leaping from the soap holder which I would use as a makeshift diving board.

When I left for college I realized with some dismay, that my nightly baths ritual would become a thing no more. Bathing in a dorm bathroom shared by who knows how many others was something I did not find appealing – not to mention the cleanliness factor. Yes sadly, my nightly baths ceased upon entering freshman year in college and were promptly replaced by a shower.

Yet one night, the old urge struck. Returning from a night out and perhaps one Tequila Sunrise too many, I made my way to the dorm bathroom.  Perfect! At 3AM on a weekday there was not a soul in sight. I undressed and proceeded to the sink, my towel tightly wrapped around me. As I began to brush my teeth I felt the towel slipping. As it fell to the floor I was faced with two choices: pick it up immediately or finish brushing and then retrieve the towel.  Given the late hour and the desolateness of the dorm, I opted for the latter – my fatal mistake. As if in a dream I watched the bathroom door swing open to reveal a tall sleepy male, no doubt someone’s boyfriend as my dorm was all women. His eyes, which only moments before were half slits were now golf balls as he gaped at me standing before him, stark nude, tooth-brush still in hand.  I shrieked, tore past him and jumped on my roommate’s bed. Babbling and breathless I attempted to explain to her what still rates as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.  Oh bath, how could you have forsaken me?

When I became engaged and began staying overnight at my fiance’s apartment I learned the meaning of true love.  Craving my bath one night, I mentioned that his tub did not seem well, completely clean.  I asked where I could find his cleaning supplies. “Do you have to have a bath every night?” he asked with some annoyance as he disappeared into the kitchen. Returning with a can of Comet and scrub brush he for the next 15 minutes, painstakingly cleaned the tub for me. And with that gesture, I knew I was marrying the right man.

I have two sons who have inherited their mother and grandmother’s love of baths.  I can hear the water running nightly and I have caught them filling up the tub to play their own Barbie doll type of diving game but instead they use pencils.  They catapult the pencils off the side of the tub in their own game of acrobatics.  At any hour, morning or night, at the slightest hint of a stomach ache or joint discomfort from sports, a tub is running.  Aqua therapy of sort.  I realize this is a luxury in our society and lecture them on the number and length of time spent in the bath.  But it often falls on deaf ears as my son races in from school, drops his back pack in the corner and heads up to the bathroom to turn on the bath.  He too understands the healing of the waters.

My adult bath ritual has changed only slightly since childhood.  I still take one every single night, but instead of the Barbies I bring one guilty pleasure which I lay on the side of the tub; four Hershey Chocolate kisses.  My second favorite comfort in life.

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In the Company of Women

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I am still learning about men.

I was one of four daughters, attended all girl catholic schools my entire life, never knew what a jock strap looked like, have no idea how to change a tire and never experienced the bright stadium lights at a night-time football game.   My father did put up a basketball hoop once in our driveway, short-lived when the ball sailed through the glass pane of the garage door. There it stood neglected for years a sad testament to the son my mother never had.

My Scottish reared father never once expressed regret at not having a son. Rather, he reveled in his four daughters and life among them. He loved his girls. Though there were times we tried his patience. A flashback of his screams from the shower after being cut by a worn down razor blade used on too many female teenage legs. Or his aversion to the smell of nail polish remover. He hated the smell of nail polish remover.  He was equally content watching a rugby match as he was a cooking show.

During his daughter’s bridal showers, all four of them, rather than fleeing for the afternoon as most men might, my father would delight in being part of the celebration.  There he would sit center stage, in his recliner, newspaper in hand (a ploy to feign disinterest) among the squeals and chaos of thirty females.  Every now and again as a new gift was unveiled he would lift his head up casually and remark  “Ah what’s this one? Hold it up a little closer Kath…”

My sister Sheila, too experienced this sometimes disadvantage of not having grown up with or been schooled among boys.  When she and my mother visited Lord and Taylor to buy her first boyfriend a birthday gift, the saleswoman paused in puzzlement as she inquired as to where she might find the men’s “blouses.”

In addition to my father there was in fact one other male in our family.  A big, beautiful Irish wolfhound, brought back from a holiday in Ireland.  I recall listening in on a now famous conversation in our family between my mother and the vet. “I need to bring Connell in to be spayed,” The vet’s patient reply:  “You mean neutered Mrs. Dickinson.”  My mother’s reply “Oh, yes that is when they fix his vagina?”  My sister and I stared at each other, and then burst into laughter. We thought that something must have gotten lost in translation as my mother, Irish-born, often had her own interpretation of words.  Looking back however, I think she simply believed Connell like the rest of us, female, at least in theory.

I married and ironically, have two sons.  My husband has taught them the things his own father taught him; how to throw a ball, using common tools for simple jobs, being kind and respectful.  My sons are equally in touch with their feminine side and have as many female friends as male.  They have five female cousins whom they see frequently further adding to their comfort level with girls, not to mention the added bonus of always have a date for the prom.

But I guess in at least one aspect boys will be boys. Despite my pleas, they still on occasion leave the seat up.

Our toy fox terrier Anabel however, is female. Score for my side.