January 20, 2011

The Best Way to Run Away without leaving Home

My homestead has been a flurry of activity for the past two weeks.  What with snow days, girls home with the flu, husband home three weekdays due to a temporarily altered work schedule, and handymen in and out fixing hot water tanks and bathroom vents there hasn't been an awful lot of brainspace for yours truly to collect herself enough to write anything from scratch.  My solace has been to climb into the bath in the late evenings with a book, lately Tony Blair's autobiography A Journey: My Political Life, for a half hour or so.  In this habit I am very much like my dear mom.  A few years ago I began a series of personal essays about wise sayings and attitudes passed down from her, and for this week's post, I include my earliest one:

When I was twelve, my dad took by elder brother Stephen and I to Whiterock, a small seaside town south of Vancouver, to visit my dad's parents whom we called Nana and Grandad.  One afternoon during the visit my Nana and I were discussing baths and showers, most likely brought on by the scolding I had received from her for taking a forty-five minute shower earlier that day (-we didn't have a shower at home). I remember telling her that my mom frequently enjoyed long, hot baths in the evening, and Nana's reaction was such that I began to worry about my mom's safety.  Nana insisted that long hot baths were very bad for the heart and if my mother insisted on taking baths they should be lukewarm at best.  She instructed me to pass on this vital information as soon as I got home, for she was sure my mom must be ignorant about the daily risk she was taking against her health.  When I was finally able to tell my mom about what Nana had said, I expected her to be first, utterly shocked, and second, exceedingly grateful to me for passing on the life-saving information.  It was my turn to be shocked, however, when for the first time ever, my mom let me in on a little secret:  she and Nana did not agree on everything, and Nana should mind her own business.  Reading in the bath was my mother's reward after a full day of doing everything she did for her family and community, and no one was going to take that away from her.  In fact, she frequently encouraged all of us to do the same.

My mom's benevolence regarding baths extended beyond the family to include overnight guests.  If someone we were hosting appeared tired, dirty, and unstrung from travel, she would offer them the bathtub.  The summer I was eighteen I met a traveling German boy, just a little older than myself.  He frequently came into the somewhat fancy outdoor adventure supply shop (which my dad liked to call 'The Yuppie Surplus') where I worked and finally asked me out to a movie.  We became good friends and I invited him home on occasion.  He had been staying with a family at their camp quite far out of town, helping them to build a log home, and frequently went without a bath or shower for several days in a row.  My mom liked him and would often invite him to eat or have tea with us, but she would always ask a few times during his visit as his 'natural' body odour filled the room, " Patrick, wouldn't you like a nice, hot bath?" I would watch her pained face as he would smilingly refuse, completely unaware of the malodorous discomfort he was creating.  When she pressed again, he would finally agree, and my relief would almost equal hers.

I have often heard women complain about mothers who think a hot bath and a cup of tea are the answer to all life's problems.  I do not think for a moment my mom in naive enough to believe that, but she firmly holds (and I agree with her) that both tea and hot baths are great restoratives to the world-weary soul.  Ours was a family of six children, who grew up in a smallish century-old house with one bathroom. Reading far into the night was the way my mom made time and space for herself.  Many times I would arrive home late at night after a dance or a night out at a club, and there would be mom reading in the old claw-foot tub, her chest covered with facecloths, her toes skillfully manipulating the taps to add more hot water.  Without looking up from War and Peace or Brideshead Revisited she would say, "Oh hello sweetie, did you have a good time?  What time is it?  Really?  That late!  I'll get out and you can get in and have a nice, hot bath..."

And I would.


  1. Thanks for that lovely recollection about your mom... and hot baths. Since I have started running I favour long hot showers. I find the hot water pouring down on me very soothing for those tired, achy muscles. Sometimes I will indulge myself and stay until the hot water runs out!

  2. 45 minutes is an awfully long shower! But 45 minutes in the bath with your chest covered in facecloths - well I'm just off for one now. Loved this story.

  3. nice. wise woman...i like a nice hot bath on occassion...and always take a book with me...my heart seems fine...smiles.

  4. A prolonged hot shower is a restorative for me. I like what you are reading. Blair's autobiography sounds fascinating.

  5. I cannot remember fully at the moment, but your Nan had a valid reason for her unease. I think it had something to do with TB. Something that would have been rife in her younger days.
    A lovely bit of writing.

  6. sometimes mother really does know best. :)

  7. DianeSS: Well, to be honest I don't have long hot baths in the summer and other warm weather. Then I favour showers, especially next to cold ones after a run, so I'm with you there.

    Lucille: We set a timer in the bathroom for the boys when they shower because it it easy to lose track of time and use up all the hot water. Glad you enjoyed the story!

    Brian: Smiles...back at you. And how would you write such good poetry if your heart wasn't in good working order?

    Paul: It is fascinating - see your blog comment box for more on that :)

    Vince: Thanks, Vince. My Nana lived through the depression and the days before all the remedies we enjoy today, so perhaps you are right. But she was always a worry-wart, God love her.

    E.P.: Mine usually does :)

  8. Your Mother sounds like a sweet, warm hearted woman. It does often seem the best time to have time to ourselves is late at night...when the rest of the world is sleeping : )

  9. Rebecca! I LOVE this post! I am of the same mindset that tea and a hot bath are truly therapeutic! Your mother is a VERY wise woman!

    I have wonderful memories of perching on the closed toilet while my mother was in the bath simply chatting about what ever was going on at the time!

  10. I visited Granny Harold as a teenager one time on my own...brave explorer that I was ...and I headed out to catch a bus to see Uncle Dean but after waiting forever on some big busy street in Delta the bus never arrived and I returned to Grannies house dejected by my failure at being an independent traveler. Granny promptly soothed my spirits with a cup of tea and suggestion of a hot bath...Granny as old as Nana knew what was important! ..when my daughters were babies they would ask to join me and I taught them the drawing pictures and letters with soap on the back guessing game.. They too have adopted the candle lit bath after a hard day..

  11. I've been looking at my tub a few weeks and have yet to get in. This post has convinced me to make an appointment.

    What will I read? Hmmm... :)

    When I first started blogging, I wrote a post titled, "Reacquaint yourself with the Bathtub." I'll have to go back and read it!


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!