Our house was built in 1913 and when Luisa and I had the main bathroom renovated, we had them tear out the tub that had clearly been installed in the 1950s and replace it with a claw foot tub we’d found in a store downtown, one cast in 1913.
That was 1999.
If you’ve never had an old claw foot tub, you can’t know the sounds one makes. I can sit downstairs and hear the shower and the particular hum of feet rubbing on the bottom of the tub, like a bow across strings in staccato. I can tell when someone drops something in it because it rings, a deep bass that is unmistakeable. Recently, Miguel was showering and I heard the sound of his feet sliding on that old cast iron, heard the low thump of something dropped–something smaller than a bar of soap because I know that sound well. When he finished showering, I asked him what he had dropped and he said, “The fingernail clippers.” That made sense–small, metal on metal, a different pitch.
And then I wondered when he had started to trim his own nails. It must have been some time ago because I don’t remember the last time I did it for him but I stood in the bathroom overwhelmed by this small milestone that had passed without notice. Before getting into the shower myself, I sat with the nail clippers in my hand and went to trim my own nails only to realize that I couldn’t because I had taken off my glasses and I wondered when that had happened, when I’d stopped being able to trim my nails without them.
We bought a claw foot tub in 1999 without knowing that someday, we’d bathe our tiny babies in it. We couldn’t imagine toddlers with soft, fine hair giggling and playing with boats and small rubber ducks and telling us stories with adorable lisps.
And now, we have a 13 year old son and our youngest will turn 10 tomorrow and the boats and ducks remain in a basket near the tub but the kids take showers now and the toys haven’t been touched in some time.
That day, as I stared at the tub, I thought about all we know about water and the way it can cut through a mountain in time, mapping its own course to an unknown end. Though I’ve always understood that power intellectually, it seemed mysterious and magical until that moment when I realized that time is passing and the courses of our lives are changing and yet we can’t always see it until the unexpected pulls our attention back from the details. We have been changed. The rush of water, the hum of feet, a deep bass that you feel in your chest–all of it leading us onward.