A friend of mine ends each hectic day by soaking in a hot bath, a time of uninterrupted luxury that I’ve heard of but never actually experienced, like those TV ads for all-inclusive resorts full of super-model couples getting tandem massages. Now that the kids are *mostly* grown, I get my share of uninterrupted time, which admittedly is half the battle in this scenario. But there’s no way I’ll ever experience bubble baths with scented candles and dim lights.
It’s not because we don’t have a tub. When we bought our house 13 years ago, we were impressed by the garden tub in the master bath. It was the first time in our marriage we’d actually been able to share a bathroom, period. Before that, we had cubicle apartments or tiny bathrooms with no counters, and we’d split the difference, mostly with one of us storing our stuff down the hall. When we bought the house, the kids were small. Occasionally they’d get a bath in our big tub, the jets stirring the bubble bath until they’d become buried beneath the suds. By the time the tub got cleared of the foam and their 57 bath toys, I was no longer in the mood for a private soak, and the second I’d start to think about it, some catastrophe on the other side of the door would arise to squelch the impulse.
It was convenient for bathing dogs. Also it was great for scrubbing a child’s muddy feet without having to fully submerge said child. When we had a house full of visitors, we lined it with blankets and let our kids sleep in it. Once, when we had to move our 55-gallon aquarium, it made a superb way-station for buckets of briny rocks and stressed out fish.
I had intentions. The tub surround was laid with expectant candles and nicely rolled towels that would have made a nice neck pillow amid the suds. I readied a good book and some background music and tried to settle in. You know how when you look out the window of an airplane when you’re in a cloud bank and the clouds are so thick and white you can convince yourself they’d surely be able to hold you like a soft billowy pillow? That’s what cats imagine when they see a tub full of magical white bubbles. It is a mind-blowing scientific fact that clouds can’t hold you; you fall right through. Same with bubbles and cats.
Except beneath the bubbles is water, which most cats dislike almost as much as they dislike being forced to wear clothing. Also there is a person, who until the moment of the surprise bubble collapse had been unsuspectingly engrossed in a novel, under the illusion that the next 30 minutes would bring bliss and relaxation instead of splashing and claws scrabbling for purchase on naked flesh like a Kraken had just been released. Candles were extinguished, neck towel lay in a soggy lump at the bottom of the tub, and the pages of the novel were fused together by copious amounts of water. An enthusiastically unhappy cat meowed loudly in humiliation.
After the terror from the deep, our big tub is now neither garden, nor tub. I explain to people that no, the scar I wear is not, in fact, from a Cesarean gone horribly awry. When the young optimistic couples on House Hunters exclaim over the spacious jacuzzi tubs in the “en suite” bathrooms, I see my past self in their starry eyes. But years of reality have set in. The tub has not held actual water or bubble bath in years. It is now, especially in the later months of the year, a repository for future events. Currently, for example, it holds bags of holiday and birthday presents, Christmas crafts, Boy Scout paraphernalia, signage for an upcoming wedding. These are layered, like an archaeological dig, in order of which comes first. Also it houses a giant yellow exercise ball that hasn’t been paroled in several years. I no longer question its existence. It simply glows like a small yellow sun from beneath the stockpile.
Gone are the dreams of a spa-like serenity in the master bath. They have vanished like bubbles deflated by a flailing cat. A small sign hangs above the tub, a dim beacon of days past, when the struggle was real, before I succumbed to the avalanche of futility that is my bathtub. Maybe this is thinking out of the box–or tub. This is what creative types do, isn’t it? It’s trendy to “repurpose” things now. Thrifty and all-American. #chipandjojo
We all have that junk drawer, the place we don’t have time for, the one we’ll get to later. My tub is a magnified junk drawer, the junk drawer you wish you had. It’s a harried attempt at organization in the face of the holiday onslaught and, if we’re being honest, a place I can hide presents at this point in life and not forget about them. What good are stocking stuffers in mid-February?
Maybe someday I’ll reclaim the tub and eventually take that stress-dissolving soak. Maybe when the calendar clears, when the holidays are someone else’s responsibility, and we do away with occasions like birthdays and graduations. By then, I’ll be too old to get in and out of the thing, and I’ll just use it to plant tomatoes. Garden tub, indeed.