Sometime in the recent past the tub toys took over my jetted bathtub and I succumbed fully to motherhood of four. Sometime in the very recent past we realized that not all four of them can fit in the tub together anymore, and shampoo bottles migrated back down the hall to the bath with a shower, but the toys have stayed.
And despite our good intentions and our purchasing of turtle shaped scoops and plastic open weave baskets and shrimp boat captains that don’t absorb water, the toys cover the bottom of the tub and sit in dirty bathwater that someone forgot to drain, and sometimes there’s slime underneath the ducky until I huff and puff and scrape everything up and begin to squeeze those squishy toys that delight toddlers and disgruntle mothers.
Flecks of grime and probable mold and general nastiness comes out the bellies of pink polka dot ducks and big blue whales and I wonder for the thousandth time why I bother. But I fill the tub again with hot water and a healthy dose of vinegar, if I’m feeling green, but bleach when I’m feeling done. I leave the room for minutes or hours, and sometimes it’s evening again before I remember the drowning mass of plastic aquatic life.
There’s another round of squeezing and the sucking in of water that is laced with cleanser in a valiant effort to save them all. Some don’t make it, and I am relieved when I can let go and just toss away and accept that they’ll never notice among all the rest that only a few are missing. The water swirls in layers of grime, and I wash it down and rinse again and again waiting for the flood of new.
This ritual of motherhood, this gross and dirty and weary bending and squeezing and rinsing time becomes a sacred moment as I watch the filth disappear and the water stream out clean.
What mom hasn’t felt like she’s drowning at some time in the midst of motherhood and all it gives and takes? What woman hasn’t tried at some point to salvage it all, only to throw up her hands and admit defeat to some things that just have to be thrown away? What mama hasn’t placed a summer-loved toddler in a tub and marveled at how the dirtier that water becomes the cleaner it means her baby is? We drain and rinse and repeat and in the drowning of the water over eyelashes and ears and bright red tugboats, something soiled becomes new again.
But because we never seem to really get it–this beauty in the mess, this glory in the grime–we’ll do it again and again and again tomorrow and the next day and the next for many more to come…
and those who’ve already passed this journey will tell us that someday we’ll long for the rinse and repeat days of motherhood when it was the drowning in someone else that made us new.