I am addicted to taking baths.
It’s not a new thing. I’ve been taking baths my whole life. But I rediscovered the benefits of a bath after taking up long-distance running as a hobby. Anything longer than six miles, my move is to soak in an Epsom salt bath and then take a nap afterward. The hot water eases my chronic hip flexor and SI pain. Also, the salt water calms me down.
We have a large master bathroom with a garden tub. It’s built for a petite woman like me to submerge her body and float. I make the water super-hot and fill it up high. Yes, to the top. As the uppermost layer of the water gets cold, it drains into the overflow tube. That’s science, right?
Well, that’s not science. And it turns out that we had a broken connection between the tub and the overflow tube. I discovered this right before New Year’s Eve. Water leaked from my second-floor bathroom onto the first-floor ceiling. It flowed down the path of least resistance and ruined our family room wall and ceiling, the downstairs bathroom, and then dripped into my basement.
When we noticed the damage, it was too late.
The water also pooled under my hardwood floors and buckled a few planks. My entire first floor is an open-concept with no breaks in the wood. So, that’s a fucking mess and needs to be repaired and refinished.
But, listen, I’m grateful to be an adult who owns a home and has insurance. When I was just a toddler, my mom and I lived with my grandmother in her tiny home in Chicago. My grandmother was a hoarder, but she always cleared out space to accommodate her adult children who returned home. We slept in my mother’s childhood bunk bed. My earliest memory of my mom is waking up and hearing her tell me, “Turn over. Stop breathing on me.”
Two of my teenage aunts still lived at home with my grandmother. One of my aunts slept in a bedroom with her newborn baby. The youngest aunt got stuck in the bunk bed with my mom and me. And there was one bathroom for four women and two babies. The shower didn’t work. We just had a tub.
Mom hated living with my grandmother and tried to work things out with my dad. Got pregnant. Eventually, the marriage failed. We moved back to my grandmother’s home for good. This time, my brother was along for the ride. He and I slept on a fold-out living room sofabed. I developed a bedwetting problem, which my brother won’t let me forget. Can’t blame him, poor kid.
Life was chaotic. Mom had two jobs and a string of dodgy boyfriends. My Dad wasn’t helpful. Broke, depressed, and alcohol-dependent. My grandmother worked the overnight shift at the local Dunkin Donuts. During the day, she watched a ton of grandkids. As more cousins were born, kids were crammed into that house like a can of sardines.
And it was just that single bathroom. No shower.
Then my mom got pregnant and married an asshole guy she knew from her childhood. That’s the nicest way I can write that sentence, and it represents thirty years of expensive therapy. We moved into a two-flat, which is a brick building with an apartment on the first floor and second floor. My sister and youngest brother were born while we lived there.
Six of us lived in about 850 square feet. A little more space with a bathtub and a shower. But it wasn’t idyllic, or, even, safe. Lots of violence in the house. I was moved into my father’s home when I was 14. Went to college when I was 17. Got a job in human resources when I was 20. Moved in with my husband when I was 23 and, for the first time, lived in a house with more than one bath.
The American dream, right?
So, I’m absolutely grateful for my good fortune. Sure, the entire first floor of my home needs to be renovated. We will need to move out while it happens, and I have to find a place to stay that will let me bring my cats. And, right now, I am living with a goddamn hole in my family room that’s covered in cardboard, garbage bags and duct tape.
I’m okay with it. All of it. This homeowner’s nightmare is small potatoes and nothing more than a blip on my personal radar screen. My needs are met, my cup is full. And I’ve discovered that picking out bathroom fixtures is surprisingly healing. Choosing new tile is a good team-building activity for my marriage, too.
They don’t call it retail therapy for nothing. And I think my grandmother would be proud.