Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Beauty of The Bath

I once wrote a short story about the different bathrooms, and mainly bathtubs, that a couple had through their married life, and how each bathroom/tub represented a different stage of life. I was inspired by my own life, because in some ways I can track our marriage (and family life) through our bathtubs.

Take the first bathtub we had, in a flat in Cambridge, England. We lived in the top floor of a nineteenth-century vicarage near Newnham College, and the bathtub was a lovely, long, claw-footed masterpiece that invited deep, long, bubbly soaks. Unfortunately, there was only enough hot water to fill it to about two inches. My husband was a theology student, we were ridiculously poor, and this tub pretty much summed up our life. When I became pregnant that year, my husband very kindly would boil kettles of water and pour them into the tub so I could have a bath--one of the only things that helped with my morning sickness. I have memories of sitting in the tub, naked and shivering, in two inches of hot water while my husband hurried to boil kettle after kettle, dear man.

We moved to a college flat the next year, in the top of a bell tower, and this time we had a deep tub and unlimited hot water. Bliss! Plus the bathroom was on a floor above our flat, having to go up eleven twisting, turret stairs, and you couldn't hear a baby crying from it, which was also bliss. My husband would take our squally newborn for an hour while I would lie in the tub and wonder just what we'd taken on. Sometimes I still wonder that.

Next tub was the house of my husband's first curacy. Tiny, olive-green, in a semidetached house in Hull. We had two children and very few baths.

Moving on to America: a decent tub but not extraordinary by any means. Three children, and the bathtub usually saw them all squeezed in there together, water slopping over the sides.

And then New York: no bathtub, but two marble showers. Which sounds far more luxurious than the 1950s box-like apartment was, but at least the kids liked it and one of the showers was a two-person one which meant you could bung them all in there together for a quick evening bath, or rather, shower time.

And finally here, the bathtub in a two hundred year old vicarage. Six feet long, nice and deep, and an immersion heater to make sure you have all the hot water you could ever need. And, quite importantly, a fan in the bathroom that keeps you from hearing the often-incessant knocking on the door, the requests to play a game, mediate an argument, find hockey kit, and/or free up the bathroom for the other six people in the house.

I've been taking a lot of baths here. In winter, I take one almost every night. And no, I don't have a compulsion to be clean. You could say I have a compulsion to sink into deep, hot, bubbly water, sip a glass of wine, and read my book. After a long day working, writing, cooking, cleaning, and managing the lives of five children, a half-hour or so in the bath brings me back to a good and peaceful place. And, as a bonus, it keeps me warm! Even with new windows our house can be a bit draughty (but that's a whole other post) and I love going to bed with my skin still lightly steaming.

You could say my bath is my guilty pleasure, but I don't feel remotely guilty about it.

1 comment:

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