Wednesday, January 28, 2009

She Has the Time

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The following was scribbled as part of the Random Complexity Writing Challenge, over at In Search of Giants. Word Count: 603.

She lights the candles, one by one. Five different scents, in different stages of meltdown, scavenged from the right-hand cabinet of her mother-in-law’s dining room hutch. The hutch that Julie and Lynn U-Hauled clear across the country one Spring, along with a table, seven chairs, and four young boys eager to see their cousins.

She turns on the water, and lets the faucets run full-out. The hotter, the better, as she recalls. Sometimes she wonders if she’ll end up like one of those frogs, the ones in the experiment. Her high school Biology teacher once told her that if you put a frog in a pan of cold water on the stove and turn on a burner, he’ll never know he’s being boiled alive. She always thinks of the frog as the steam starts to rise.

She goes to the back closet and gets down the old terry cloth bath robe. Not so white any more, but just as soft. A slight yellow tint around the cuffs. The robe she used during her hospital stay after the birth of their first little girl. An emergency C-Section. The baby was coming out sunny side up, the doctor said. The procedure—they called this gutting and stitching a “procedure”—lasted less than 10 minutes. Thirteen hours of labor, 10 minutes of delivery, one week in the hospital. Moker went out to buy her a robe so she would be comfortable during her stay.

She closes the bathroom door, turns out the lights, gets into the tub, and sinks in a profusion of orchid-scented bubbles. Twists off the cold tap and lets the hot run a few minutes more. The hotter, the better, as she recalls. Then she thinks about the frog.

Her long legs (a 34-inch inseam, to be precise) don’t quite stretch all the way out in this standard-issue tub. The formica (Julie always wonders when she’s going to replace it—the answer is “no upgrade needed.” She likes the ’70s effect) casts an unsettling glow. The candles sputter, the bathwater laps a tiny bit over onto the tile floor.

She has time to think.

For 22 years, life turned itself—and the two of them—topsy-turvy. She started off on the journey of motherhood without a clue. In fact, when the first precious little bundle came home from the hospital and pitched a screaming fit, Moker asked, turning the baby over onto her stomach, “Do these things have an ‘off’ switch, or what?”

The years rushed by in a cacophony of clich├ęs. And before they knew it, they were sitting through yet one more of life’s little truisms: high school graduation. The youngest was about to embark on a journey of her own. Then the girls had their Honda loaded down, with more than 15 pairs of shoes. Cue Kenney Chesney, if you please: “There goes my life.”

Empty Nesting has its moments. Time to talk to one another in an uninterrupted flow of thoughts. Time to try to remember what life was like almost 22 years ago. Time to ask how we got on this merry-go-round to begin with, and wonder if we’ll ever get off. And if we’ll be able to remember all of this sweet, wild, wonderful ride.

Time to ponder what’s coming next, as well as what has come before.

Time to take a bath, in the orchid-scented bubbles that the youngest gave her Mommy as a Christmas present. An unexpected gift, to the woman who has spent the last 22 years wondering if anyone was really paying attention.

Life’s still rushing by. But now she has the time.


Julie Eliz said...

Oh my gosh, SIL, you made me cry AGAIN! And who doesn't need a good cry at 6 am? Love you.

annie kelleher said...

lovely piece... made me want to get into a hot bath!!! hope you stay warm and safe and dry - we've got a snow day today!!!

Tracy P. said...

Wow, choking me up two days in a row. You are shameless!

Tiffany said...

I love that. You really carried me along with that. I like that he turns the baby over on her stomach looking for the off switch. I love that you take us from birth through empty nest with the robe and bath carrying it through. Really good work!

I also liked your haiku you left on my site. That is exactly why I didn't step foot out of the house yesterday - too slick for me. Not worth a fall.

♥georgie♥ said...

goodness that was beautiful!!!

Susie said...

Very beautiful writing! Love it:-)

Marrdy said...

Wow, what a gift you have. Maybe you should start writing books!

angie said...

Wonderful writing!

Deanna said...

I look at my jacuzzi tub with the coating of dust at the bottom and think that the last time it was used was when my boys were playing army men during bathtime. Thanks for reminding me that there will be time... but for now ENJOY!

Kally said...

Beautiful writing!

I have that robe too but I haven't quite worn it in yet. Sometimes it still feels scratchy.

Michelle said...

Oh, that's beautiful! And that imagery of the frog... man is it sticking with me!

A Frugal Friend said...

This is a great post......and I kinda get choked up thinking about my little one....still young. For now.