We had a silver pitcher that lived on top of our little woodstove in our bus. When it was too cold for outside bucket baths, we washed with rags using the hot water from the silver pitcher. My mom cherished that pitcher with it’s thick handle and elegant, curved mouth for pouring. It was like one of her prize possessions. It made her happy to provide us with a luxury like hot water up in our bus. And she loved rags. And hankies.
Once in a while we’d take baths in the house. The bathroom in Dogwood Blossom was large with a brick fireplace in the wall. To heat up water you had to make a fire in it outside of the house and wait for the water to heat. The bathroom was really only a bathroom with a bathtub in it. Swinging saloon shutter like doors were right in the middle of the door frame so it was not much privacy for bathing. Us young kids could see right under the little doors with the bathtub in a direct line of sight.
When I got to bathe in the house in the real bathtub after a grownup would make a fire to heat up water, I stayed in there as long as I possibly could until the water was freezing and I was wrinkled as a prune. I didn’t know what a prune was, but my mom told me I was wrinkely as one so I knew prunes must be really wrinkley. I still wanted to stay in, splashing around, emerged in all that glorious water, staring in wonderment at the bumpy wrinkles on my hands, but they made me get out.
Then I’d get my teeth brushed. My mother was a tooth brushing fanatic. She always told us about the invisible tiny bugs you can’t see that will eat food out of your teeth while you sleep and then go poop and pee on your teeth and rot them and the most important thing in the whole entire world, is to always brush your teeth every single night. I can’t remember what she usually brushed my teeth with but when we got toothpaste, it was a treat. A man would use his pocket knife to slice open a completely flattened tube of toothpaste while dozens of people stood around hoping to get a miniscule scraping of it’s rare, sweet insides.
We got clothes from the piles of old clothes that other people didn’t want anymore and would put on the side of the road. My mom was diligent in looking though those piles to keep my brother and I in clothes and shoes that fit and even more diligent keeping them clean. She washed them with a metal washboard outside of our bus while she sang. Then she’d hang them on the clothesline by the house. I can almost imagine her as the spitting image of Snow White with birds and bunnies flocking to help as she washed and hung clothes – bewitchingly beautiful with long, black hair, humming and singing while she worked, worked, worked with the savvy voice of a gifted songstress that few are blessed with. Then she’d grumble and hiss and complain about one of the house ladies who took our clothes off the line and dressed her kids in them. The kids who’s faces she would wash, noses she would blow and diapers she would change complaining how the parent wasn’t doing it. I liked watching her wash the really dirty face of this one little boy because it was amazing, like taking a mask off, seeing his smiling, cute face get all clean and pretty – she never let my face get that dirty or my nose get that runny. I didn’t understand her hatred for “filthiness” because the dirty boy seemed perfectly happy with a dirty face, I didn’t see how it was hurting him. She scrubbed our faces and blew our noses like it was religious doctrine. My brother and I weren’t allowed to sniffle like the other kids, we had to blow our noses. She seemed to take work more seriously than most people and did too much to the point of being quite grumpy about “coming home from working all day to find dirty kids and dirty dishes that someone else should have done” that she would then succumb to doing even though she was tired and it wasn’t her turn. She complained to me and Sky. We were her confidants.
In cold weather, she made me wear two layers of socks. I hated it. I begged to be spared from putting on two pairs but no, I had to wear two sock layers and I had to wear a hat. A sickening feeling would fill my gut, knowing that because of the terrible two saggy sock layer situation, the horrible wrinkles were coming. The foul wrinkles that I would have to walk on, stuck between the sole of my foot and the tight shoe. Once she imprisoned my feet into the shoes, there was no escaping. The abhorrent, detestable sock wrinkles were coming to torture me. I must devise a plan to be free of this detestable wrinkle curse.
I got dreamy eyed about the day I would tie my own shoes. Bigger kids who could tie their own shoes, wow, they are so cool. I absolutely cannot wait until I can tie my shoes, it’s going to be the greatest achievement ever. I indulge in fantasies, picturing me tying my shoes all by myself. When I can do that kind of magic, I am going to be so flippin’ cool. Tie shoes I must. Oh, exalted, unfathomable shoe tying ability – you will be mine!
One of the places I have to walk to with wrinkley socks is The Greenhouse when it’s too cold for Sunday Services to be in The Meditation Meadow. They do the same stuff as in the Meadow – close their eyes forever, then awesome OMing then sit and listen to Stephen talk and talk and talk about “vibes” and “energy” and “being into the juice” and who knows what – except, unlike the spacious open meadow, everyone is packed in shoulder to shoulder among the gravelly rows encased in glass. None of his words are much interest to me, he talks slow and methodically, it’s all pretty boring. He drones on about what it means to “be stoned with each other” and says stuff like “It’s far out, man” or “That’s really where it’s at”. And everyone chuckles. As I study all the engaged faces who don’t notice me looking at them, I secretly wish to myself that they would just OM some more. The OMing is so awesome. Far beyond boring words.