Friday, September 02, 2016

Poetry Friday: Bathtime

One day in seventh grade this week, in connection with our reading of Behind the Mountains, by Edwidge Danticat, my students were sharing family traditions.  It was a sweet discussion.  One student, whom I had seen crying earlier that week over family issues, talked about a beautiful memory that took my breath away.

As parents, we hope those happy memories outweigh the sad ones in our kids' lives.  All families have plenty of both kinds.  As I think about my own family, I realize that the ordinary everyday moments are often the happiest ones.

In eighth grade this week, we read Naomi Shihab Nye's poem "Valentine for Ernest Mann."  (You can read it here.)  It contains the words: "Poems hide."  I told the class to look around in their lives for places where poems hide, and to illustrate, I pulled up my own list on my laptop and projected it on the screen.  I started the list a few years ago, and had forgotten that one of the first things on it is my son's baby bath, a large blue washtub.  That baby son is now an eighth grader, and he was in that very class that morning.  He was embarrassed, and I quickly took down the list, but it got me thinking.

The combination of both those class discussions resulted in this poem last night.  My son didn't want me to read it to his class, but he gave his permission to post it here.  Hope you enjoy it.


When my son was a baby,
Every morning I would fill up a royal blue washtub
And set it out in the sun.
By noon it would be so hot
I’d have to add cold water to it.
I’d carry him outside and give him a bath.
Oh, we’d have splashy fun together
And then I’d towel him dry
And then nurse him to sleep,
Smelling his still-damp, fragrant head.

So many joyful gifts I didn’t have to deserve:
The tropical sun, free for the taking;
The water, saved from the rain
Or bought in trucks 3,000 gallons at a time
And stored in the cistern,
But as much as I really needed.
Best of all, that little blond boy
Who loved me so much,
So much that he would grin and grin
Until it seemed he would burst like a soap bubble
Every afternoon when I went to get him up from his nap.

Ruth, from

Here's today's roundup.


Tabatha said...

How generous of your son to let you share the poem with us! He sounds delightful, then and now. I love that sun, free for the taking, and the soap bubble joy.

SW said...

Lovely poem! You are a great mom!

Penny Parker Klostermann said...

What a joyful poem. The last four lines bring back memories of my son and his smile :-)

Linda B said...

Yes, those small things are what we love, Ruth. What a sweet memory, and I can understand why your son wouldn't wish it to be shared in class. It must be fun to have him in your class. I had my mom for 5th & 6th grade & did enjoy it, although I remember the challenge of what to call her! Love "Until it seemed he would burst like a soap bubble".

Brenda Harsham said...

What a sweet poem, I can almost smell the soap. My kids loved their baths, too.

Violet Nesdoly said...

So nice to read a poem by you, Ruth!

Love this bit especially:
"... that little blond boy
Who loved me so much,
So much that he would grin and grin
Until it seemed he would burst like a soap bubble."

Carie Maria Bowen said...

Love this. I miss my little blonde, blue-eyed baby boy. He's now my strapping, nearly 16 year old, green eyed young man.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Gorgeous, Ruth! You capture the love of a mother so well. Thanks for bringing back some of my own treasured memories.

Buffy Silverman said...

Oh this is lovely--glad your son let you share it. And good luck with having him as a student. My husband's mom was his eighth grade English teacher (and from the stories he tells he was not his usual agreeable self in her class!)

Irene Latham said...

What a brave, generous son to allow this community a peek into such a tender moment between mother and son... bursting soap bubble indeed! Poems DO hide, don't they, and they seem to want to be found. I'm so glad you found this one, Ruth. xo

Mary Lee said...

What sweet memories!

And also -- the power of those seed ideas! You just never know when a poem will be ready to sprout from one!

Bridget Magee said...

Thank you to your son for allowing you to share this sweet memory. Love the lines:
"he would grin and grin
Until it seemed he would burst like a soap bubble" - the power of the maternal bond.
Thank you for finding this hidden poem and sharing it with us, Ruth. =)