Susan McLaughlin Grevelis
I feel the weight of her 70lbs on my back as I bend down to liberate her from her everyday garb that disguises her changing body. She above me, folded in half, with an ear to my back. Momentarily motionless, perhaps lulled by the sound of my thumping heart below and the crashing water ahead. She is statue-like as I fight her foot to claim the last few inches of her leopard spotted knee sock.
It is bath time and she is ready. She voices no demands for fancy toys; no pleads “more bubblesmommy”. There are a few simple needs: a hand for support in and out of the tub, warm water, and unrestricted splashing.
Once in the water she maneuvers to find the perfect spot before sinking in. The water is past her waist and free from any distractions except for an occasional empty water bottle or an action figure floating around left by her little brother. She pays them no mind. The water is enough for her. It is plentiful and warm.
She begins her play by slowly tapping the water’s surface as if tuning an ancient beloved instrument. She then dives in and begins to slap a rhythm that she repeats over and over again with an intense passion. This is a familiar song, one that is heard most places around the house but in this wet place there is an added sensation that delightfully surprises her.
She is entranced. Ignoring her audience and without the possibility of letting anyone else join in on the fun, I retreat to another room close by and secretly listen in. I can hear her happy sounds. I remember how much she has always loved the tub. I am hit by wave after wave of memories of her life before that predawn morning in March. I feel a pulling, an intense undertow taking me to the past. Then I hear her splashing her tune and am pulled back above the water, in the present with my first born.
In a short while the beat slows and I pop back in. She rises from the water unsteady like a mermaid with new land legs. She is done. She waits for my hand and very slowly steps out and reaches her foot for the fuzzy gray rug. She shivers as I wrap her tightly with a soft bath towel. I smooth away the goose bumps quickly but she is impatient. She struggles to be still as I dress her like a lady-in-waiting.
She grabs for the door as I rush to get a brush through her mess of curls. She makes unhappy noises. Often times she presses her forehead to mine, as if to send me a message telepathically. Sometimes I am sure that I hear her, I wonder if she can hear me.