The house is finally asleep. It's late. I am tired. And the shower is calling to me with the whistle of hot water and pulsating jets.
All I want to do is stand under the warm spray and let my mind go blank.
But then my mouth goes "blankety-blank-blank" as a hard plastic shark defends itself from being stepped on.
Over the course of the last few months the toys have taken over every spare inch of the tub. They seem to multiply at night when we sleep. The shifting around of things has become a nightly routine: Before I can fit into the narrow stall, I collect all the bath time trinkets and balance them precariously on top of each other in a too-small plastic bucket. The receptacle was intended to police a precise amount of toys but has long since been overrun with smiling scofflaws.
I swear it seems as if I went to bed one night and the yellow Rubber Duckie hooked up with the purple Temperature Gauge Hippo and, within the blink of an eye, gestated a family of Hipster Ducks in every color of the rainbow.
Hours ago, fresh from her own shower, Ittybit had carefully lined them up along the edge of the blue bathmat, naming each one as she went: Fluffy, Floofy, Rattle, Cagey, Dopey and Doc. ... "Now stay right there," she instructed sternly before bouncing off to bed. "Don’t go swimming away."
I love watching her play, especially now that her "little" voice and all her sweet little light-as-air expressions are being slowly taken over by all the experiences of growing up. It's bittersweet.
She sings a song about her day to the family of ducks: "I was coloring, and the window was open, but it rained and nobody ate the green peas or the corn. Green peas and corn."
Smiling, I step over the ducks and step through the curtain.
As I lather, rinse and repeat, I think about the play. The careful screening of toy audiences to watch as she juggles balls: throwing three up into the air and bowing deeply as they clatter off the walls in opposite directions.
The ringmaster tones she's adopted since her visit to the circus months ago: "Ladies and Gentlemen … you won’t believe anything you see ever!"
I get soap in my eyes, but it doesn't sting. I haven't bought anything besides baby shampoo in an eternity.
She talks about how she'd really like it if her ducks were real. If they’d talk back to her, and tell her their secrets. Remembering all this in the silence of the bathroom as the house sleeps, makes me feel full and warm even as the water cools.
I turn the faucet off and grab a towel to dry off. As I pull back the curtain, looking down I see that the ducks have all turned tail to each other and “swum” to opposite sides of the blue bathmat "pond."
I stare a little flummoxed at the sight, and listen for a little giggle from the darkened hallway. Nothing. I sneak into her room and find her fast asleep.