Several years ago we remodeled our kids’ bathroom because it was bound to leak into the new kitchen directly below it. In fact, the water damage to the ceiling was one of many reasons we needed to redo the kitchen in the first place. Aside from poor construction, one of the reasons it leaked was our boy’s propensity to overfill the bath tub – a blue fiberglass monstrosity that never kept the water hot enough and wasn’t very deep. These attributes were great for bathing babies but less than ideal for a boy who loves nothing more than to be fully immersed. But back then we weren’t ready to part with the blue beast – for money and safety reasons – and remodeled the rest of the bathroom using copious amounts of caulk to keep it water tight.
Now it’s time to replace the tub, and our boy has opinions about that. Will it be deeper? Yes. Will it be blue? Thankfully, no. Will it fit all of the boats from the Big Harbor? Probably. Will I be delighted? We hope so.
So last weekend, we prepared him for the adjustments made necessary by construction – everyone sharing the one shower while the blue tub gets replaced. We noted that it would take weeks to get it all done, but at the end of the first day he came home from school and asked if his new tub is ready yet. We said no but took him upstairs that he would see where they had begun to remove it. He gently placed his hand on the side where the tub joined the wall, and said, “I am going to give it a kiss goodbye.”
And with a gentle smooch, he left and closed the door behind him.
When I said that things were going to change I didn’t mean the next day. I have had countless humbling experiences in my life but breaking my foot is in the top, oh, 100 and moving up the charts fast. A loose sandal strap, an overabundance of enthusiasm at seeing an old friend, and a menacing threshold, and in an instant I am imprisoned in my house full of stairs (how have I not noticed this?) and faced with the prospect of being burden to friends and family for untold weeks. There’s nothing like going up and down stairs on your butt to give you a little perspective, unless it’s sitting on a plastic stool in the shower with your trash bad-clad leg sticking outside of the curtain and then realizing the soap is above and behind you. Naturally, the stereo is up too loud to hope that a call for assistance would be answered but I’m too proud to let anyone see me in such a ridiculous posture anyway. Humbling, indeed.
But I am doggedly determined to see the silver lining (but let the record show there is no such thing as a silver lining of any kind at 6am if there are crutches involved) and thus far there are a few notable glimmers. First, our autistic son is the most empathetic and least likely to engage in emotional blackmail while doing things for me – and every time he passes by, he solicitously taps my big toe and smiles at me. The others, while helpful to a point, roll their eyes and and ask for take-out pizza at every opportunity. I have already collapsed in tears once, declaring that I have raised a passel of self-centered prima donnas, but then again that is the definition of adolescence, pretty much. And just when I think they are doomed to a life lived with the House of Pizza on speed dial, they ask me to guide them through the process of cooking eggs for an after school snack, after which the kitchen still looks clean. So, even though I hate the sound of it, I have a feeling we are all in for a lot of teachable moments.
And, one more beam cuts through the fog – now I have no excuse for not writing.
September brings out the manager of children in me. I realize, as I do every year while filling out forms and calendars, arranging transportation, and purging all of the stuff from last year, that they are my job, my passion, my center of focus. This year, just as I hit my stride, they show distressing signs of growing up.
As we approach the dinner hour on this first day of school I survey the scene of everyone doing their own thing – one draws and watches streaming TV (Dexter, probably) in front of her computer, one belts out Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting on guitar hero and the third lobs a question from the next room “Mom, is mist like baby fog?” These days, in which I am privy to what all of them are doing in a single moment, are going to get scarce.
Rice simmers, grill heats, and summer slips quietly out the screen door to the strains of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition.