Bath Tub

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Lin Stone

I loved my Grandma.

Her floors were swept every day.

Her white stove with pretty yellow flowers on it got scrubbed after every foray, including snacks.

Mud in her house was an abomination that got you sent to the lower regions in seconds without her saying a word; Grandma just pointed with her chin, like she was one of us Indians.

Why, Grandma was such a nut about cleanliness that many a time we saw her make Grandpa take a bath -- even when he already smelled as clean as a horse.

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That kind of cleanliness was a luxury Mama couldn't afford for us. Our water supply was a big well 50 yards away that only run for a few hours a week. When it came on we hauled water to the house in Karo buckets, as fast as we could go.

Mama took a bath once in a while. But, us kids never needed one because we swam in the clean ditch when the well was running, and we swam in the mud hole it left behind when it wasn't. When the mud dried, caked and fell off, I believe that even Grandma would have thought we were clean.

Thus, after the first long trip to Grandma's modern home, I was only mildly interested when she mentioned taking a bath. But Daddy and Mama seconded the idea, so I followed her out to the back porch, expecting to see a little wash tub like Mama squeezed into.

Grandma's huge bath tub sprawled out upon knuckled feet. I was frozen with wonder. "Grandma.  How can you carry that thing into the kitchen?"

"We leave it in here," said Grandma. Her nose wrinkled. "Where are them twins at? They need a bath too."

She put all three of us big boys in there, and we had room to spare. Biggie snorkeled and Littlie splashed. When that grew tiresome we competed to blow the biggest bubbles from our fingers. We were jerking around so much that Grandma's filled fruit jars overhead began shaking. She beat on the door twice to scream: "Yawl are having too much fun in there to be getting clean!"

I loved Grandma. I loved her biscuits. I loved her tomatoes, I loved her corn on the cob -- her frozen strawberries too, and most of all I loved her gravy. When you love everything about someone that much you find out what pleases them most, and you do it. I soon learned what made Grandma smile most was a kid coming clean in the bathtub. So over the years, every time we came to visit I'd just up and voluntarily ask Grandma if I could take a bath. That's what made her sweet smile crinkle the longest.

Just as governments work hard to maintain a heritage of wildlife for the coming generations you need to work on providing a legacy for your heirs.

Meanwhile, things were changing at home. First we moved off the reservation into a Euro-Merican kind of house with running water for the horse trough just outside our door.  The horse could turn the water on by himself so it stayed pretty clean. We took our baths in the horse trough.  It was really neat to watch Daddy dip in and dip out so fast he didn't even get his hat wet.  Then we moved to a house with water right inside the kitchen, then on to another one with running water for our very own bath tub. There were 29 other moves in between, but these were the steps up the scales of luxury that we took.

Our first real bath tub was half sunk in the floor. Mama would sprinkle some Tide in the bottom and I would climb in, turning on the water full blast to make suds. 

By the time Lynn smiled at me I was taking a bath once a week, of my own free will. By the time Terry laughed at something I'd said I was bathing twice a week. But after Sharon let me kiss her right on the lips? Why, when someone that sweet loves you back you find out what pleases them the most and you do it.

Sharon smelled just like Grandma, a mix of flour, mince and allspice. She was a nut about cleanliness too. So, I took a bath EVERY time I had a chance to see her, even if I was already as clean as my horse is before you throw the saddle on.

Bathing changed suddenly when I joined the Army to get some combat experience. They had something called "Showers". I was leery of them at first; showering, as far as I could tell at first glance, was about like trying to shove fish up the rainbow just because it is raining heavy.

To make matters worse the only showering spot was in the midst of a dozen strangers prancing around naked and making remarks about my physical deficiencies that I didn't even begin to understand. I figured they were men after all, and would understand my lack of enthusiasm for an over-indulgence in water.

How wrong I was!  They didn't understand a thing. 

It wasn't long before 4 or 5 city slickers approached me at midnight and insisted that I go take a shower with them. "Why?" I asked.

"Because you smell like a horse," they responded.

I could tell just by the sound of their voices that for some reason that made sense to them. After studying their faces for a few minutes I decided to pretend it made a lot of sense to me as well.

Everything worked out for the best. Before we had showered together a dozen times we were the best of friends. I even got to where I liked taking showers so much that ever since then the only bath tub I've been in, is Grandma's.

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Grandma is gone now.  I miss her terribly.  Her bathtub, and the house, belong to my first born-for Uncle Ray now. But every time I go to visit I can almost feel my beloved Grandma hovering near the stove, and I soon hear myself asking Aunt Mildred: "Would you mind if I took a bath?"

They probably think it is strange I never use the shower inside the house that they do.  Alone on the porch with the suds a foot thick, I look up at the fruit jars Grandma always kept filled with cherries and tomatoes, okra and corn, Grandpa in the Bathand I remember the yellow-meated watermelons she sliced open under the shade tree, and the strawberries she plucked fresh from the freezer. As I lean back carefully I remember the biscuits and the gravy, and how the floors were always clean. 

I sure miss my Grandma.

The old tub is so small now I have to draw my knees up or else I'll cave the back end out of it. Its white knuckled feet have turned almost red. The water isn't ever hot enough. But, when you love someone as much as I loved Grandma, taking a bath isn't really that hard on you.

The End

Lin Stone is the author of How To buy Land At Tax Sales, produced by Truman Publishing.  Browzer Books has published three other books by Lin Stone:  Short Stuff, Tales From the Light Side and Water, Water.  As an editor Lin has organized several more books.  This article, and many more are available for reprint.  Click HERE for instructions.  

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