The Weight of Water
In a shoebox, the back of a deep drawer or buried in a trunk in the attic alongside silver trinkets and vintage glass no doubt accompanied with a note from my mother saying, “In case I died here’s some notes for you on the silver”, somewhere there is a cassette tape of me talking and singing to myself in the bath when I was about 6. We didn’t have a shower back then and baths were a once weekly event usually on a Sunday before the start of the school week.
Before bathing but after dinner it was time to choose the nightgown and place it in front of the fire to warm (we had an open coal fire for the first few years then gas but I don't recall when it was changed). My favourite nighty was white flannel, long and princess style. It was the gown I wore one particularly memorable morning when after retrieving milk from the doorstep I tripped on the length of it half way up the stairs, breaking the milk bottle, cutting my finger, blood everywhere and my father gallantly rescuing me, sweeping me high above the danger, nightgown trailing beneath us.
It took a while to run the bath, the old tub being a deep cast iron enamel but it held heat forever. I climb in, ouch ouch, hot, watching as my flesh seems to turn more white than it already is as the water laps over me and then in a moment my hair, once fluffy long locks, becomes seaweedy strands that stick to my body unless I submerge myself completely and then soft tendrils float around me just like a mermaid and I dream of being something else. With my ears underwater I witness my own self living. Heart beating, breath breathing and the distortion of the waters lens makes my fingers look long and elegant.
Unbeknownst to me my parents, just this one time, set up a recorder outside the door and taped me. It was a babbling, garbled monologue for the most part, chatting away to my imaginary friend, singing a little, hearing the phone ring and calling out, “is it for me?”. The solipsism of childhood; total self absorption until you want the world to notice you.
Post bath would likely entail a sweet treat, the last tv of the evening and the plaiting (braiding) of my hair whilst wet. Going to bed with a tight wet plait was fun, the cool wet braid contrasting with the warmth of my skin. I remember the following mornings and how it was so fun to undo these knots to discover curls and kinks and a magical new me.
I very rarely bathe now for I can’t sit still long enough. I dare say I love the idea and will sometimes draw a long bath, light candles, pour a glass of something, leave the phone, take a magazine, submerge and then 5 minutes later I’m a fidgeting wreck. Seems a little strange then that I would invest so much space, money and time into a 500lb cast iron tub for Parchment House. But, just looking at it reminds me of being the 6 year old in the bath at home, unquestionably safe, imaginatively playful, looking forward to the warmed nightgown and the magic of who I would wake up to be in the morning.