From Magic City Morning Star

M Stevens-David
The Bath
By Martha Stevens-David
Mar 13, 2014 - 12:20:35 AM

My daughter and her family came for a four day visit during Easter this spring and we had a lovely time. Since they live in a fairly large city in New Jersey and we only get to visit about once a year, I tried to spend a lot of time with my granddaughter, Peyton, who had just turned seven. We live in the town of Minot, in the foothills of south, central Maine and I wanted her to get to know me better and how we live here in the rural countryside.

The second day of their visit, I noticed that Peyton kept following me around as I went about my daily housekeeping chores. Thinking that she wanted to help me clean, I turned around and asked her if she wanted to help me clean. She shook her head no and looked at me with her big, blue eyes and asked, "Grammaw, when do you take your bath?" Hearing this odd question, I looked at her mother for an answer. "Lalain," I asked. "Why does Peyton want to know when I take my bath?" My daughter looked up from the book she was reading and coolly replied, "Mother, I'm not a prude like you. I always let her come in when I'm having my bath."

Panic and fear and my 1963 morality ran through my addled brain. Images of Peyton's sweet face, upon seeing my 50 year-old appendix scar, my sagging other appendages and a clear, concise comparison of her mother's 40 year-old relatively untouched by time, body, overcame me. I turned to Peyton and lied thru my teeth. "Oh Peyton," I replied. "Grammy usually takes her bath around eight thirty, long after you've gone to bed." She looked at me.  "But Grammaw, I'm on vacation. I don't have to go to bed that early; I can wait till you have your bath." I heard a distinct snicker from where my daughter sat eating a piece of my homemade bread. She may have been chewing but there was a smile on her face. Need-less-to-say, Grammaw didn't get a bath that night.

All the next day, I kept Peyton real busy hoping that she'd forget about my bath. We went shopping in town, we played outside, we mowed the grass, we fixed flower beds and we baked cookies and bread. I was totally worn out and as it got to be close to seven, I saw that Peyton was looking a little tired too. "Good" I thought to myself, "She'll have her bath soon and go to bed and then I'm off the hook!" Boy was I wrong!

After watching the sun slide below the western horizon and noticing that it was turning dark outside, Peyton turned and asked her mother, "Is it eight thirty yet?" My daughter looked at me and smirked. "No Peyton, It's nearly seven. If you listen to Grammy's clocks, they'll tell you the exact time by their chimes. You only have to listen and count." Then the clocks turned traitor too and they all began chiming in unison.

Peyton's eyes lit up and she counted. "Seven! Now I'll know when it's time for you to take your bath Grammaw!" Rising second graders can tell time pretty good too and about every fifteen minutes or so, she'd scurry up to me and say, "Grammaw, you have only one and a half hours till it's time for your bath!" Or, "thirty minutes, or fifteen minutes, or ten minutes. And then the pinch came. "Grammaw, you have only TWO minutes till bath time. Do you want me to go and turn the water on?" Knowing that short of a miracle or suddenly dying, there was no escape, mutely, I nodded my head. Off she flew to get Grammaw's bath ready.

Trapped like an old flea-bitten dog by a rabid raccoon, I drug myself towards the bathroom, desperately trying to think of a way to take a bath without removing my clothes. As I closed the doors, I turned and saw that Peyton had arrived way ahead of me and she was happily ensconced on the toilet seat and was looking expectantly at me.

As the large tub slowly filled, I stalled and stalled, trying to think of a way out, to no avail. I adjusted the water temperature several times. I had her select the bath salts as I pretended to look for a wash cloth and a towel but she never took her blue eyes off me. Water slid off my fevered brow, hot flashes hit like never before and I tried to think how I could remove my few items of clothing gracefully. I could have easily won any contest for the longest time in removing one's clothing.

Finally, as the last of my old clothes hit the floor and I stood there in my sixty year-old saggy skin, I could feel Peyton's eyes carefully examining every inch of my body. Stark naked, I slowly turned to look at her. Her blueberry eyes slid over my tortured self and I waited for the multitude of questions that were inevitable. She slid off the toilet seat and said, "Grammaw, can I try your new toothpaste?"  Upon hearing this, I scrambled into my big tub, slid under the concealing bubbles and replied, "God yes! Use as much as you like Peyton!"

As she ran up the stairs to get her toothbrush, I washed whatever I could feel and got the hell out of there! However, I'm sure I'll have flashbacks for the next several years or until the next visit anyway!

Martha Stevens-David

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