I have one delicious memory from my childhood.
One simple, ordinary moment in time that was savoured.
An evening ritual. One that made me innately aware of being planted solidly in a family unit, part of a bustling household and never more secure in that deceivingly inconsequential nightly routine.
My mother would pour my bath and take all the care in the world to ensure it was never too hot or too cold. Always warning me not to venture closer until the temperature was just right.
She would then kneel down and help me wriggle out of all my layers of clothes. I would lean in to her as she helped me balance, snuggling in to her hair and giggling, as she would use the opportunity to plant a million kisses on my flushed face.
She would then take care to, as all busy mums do; quickly make sure I was scrubbed clean and then leave me to enjoy my bath on my own for a short while so she could get 5 other things done before coming back to get me.
With three other siblings to compete with, I always felt like the most special, important person in the world whenever I got these moments alone with her, and I relished in them.
As the warm steam snaked its way off the white foamy bubbles, wisping up and around the room. I would submerge myself under the water, with only my face and toes remaining above the surface.
This warm blanket of liquid I cocooned myself under, was simply bliss.
The magic of this moment was more specifically about all the sounds I could hear under that water. My submerged ears, is where I found the greatest delight.
The happenings of the household at that time of night, muffled by a wall of water yet somehow so crystal clear. Noises that were not the same as when above.
It is this splendid, quiet moment on my own that is still so vivid to me now.
The bath was like a giant upside down glass and I listened very closely as if I was holding that glass up against the bathroom wall, magnifying the gentle hum of conversations and appliances competing with each other down the hall.
My teenage sister on the phone talking quietly to a boy, with her music gently thumping – white noise so parents couldn’t hear; my dad listening to the news propped up at the kitchen table keeping mum company while she cooked. The sturdy old electric frying pan she used sizzling and crackling our dinner as she stood over it and tiredly sipping her wine as she stirred.
Dad, always in a running conversation with the television unimpressed by whichever politician was on the screen at the time.
My parents were in catch up mode after each having a long day at work. They would debrief each other and discuss bills that had to be paid, children that were growing out of their school shoes and summer holidays to the coast that needed to be idyllically planned. They used to talk to each other like nobody else existed, all that mattered was the two of them – you would think as their offspring I would not like this so much – wanting to be a priority, but nothing could be further from the truth, I adored the love they had for each other, and their beautiful connection remains with me still.
In that bathtub, in that house. I felt a part of something, I felt safe and I felt very loved.
To my parents, I am sure this was a vexing nightly routine; possibly this same moment for them, as they sat in our little kitchen, was filled with worry, fatigue and stress of working hard and making ends meet.
If only they knew down the hall their child was listening on and falling completely in love with the sounds of their voices, and footsteps and what they thought were private moments between them.
Any time I want to remember my dad’s voice, it is this memory I go to.
As for my mother, any time I am craving to be close to her, distance keeping us apart for long periods of time; it is this memory I squeeze as tightly as I can and squish out all the loveliness. Her perfume, her smile, her warm hands as she busily get tasks done.
I would stay in that bath until my fingers and toes became prune-ish and my teeth began to chatter, then the time finally came to be scooped up by whichever parent’s turn it was, into a big fluffy towel.
It never ever escapes me, how this one single memory takes about 30 seconds of re-living in my mind. How it is light years away from where I stand today. A speck of dust in the story of me, and yet it is everything.
To me it has become clear, this is what it is all about.
The things we smile about today, the things we taste, smell and experience it is all so fleeting. Teeny tiny specks that one day you end up looking back on and become so giant in your mind – how truly sad it is if these moments get missed and not soaked up to savour later.
I am fortunate in a lot of ways the pain I have endured in my life, has taught me this lesson well. I do now hold my husband that little bit tighter. I do try not to stress over, well anything really. And I do make as much time as I can to be with my beautiful family. I also send the universe quiet tiny wishes, that my mother’s house was still filled with noise and footsteps and my father’s voice. We each try hard to fill that space for her as much as we can now.
I especially make sure I take time to stop and pour myself a bubble bath.
I sometimes even sink right down until my ears go under the water, and as I listen very carefully to all the beautiful noises I hear coming down the hall as I smile.
Smiling is a new thing for me lately, after being submerged under a different kind of blanket for so long, and it feels amazing.