Monday, February 23, 2009

Ophelia's In The Bathwater

'Ophelia' in a party dress!

It isn’t so unusual in this life of parenting, for a soul to search, looking for answers or recognition. Perhaps it is why mine seeks out and feels most at home in a Shakespearean tragedy. Well, more of a melodrama really.

When I have the time to reflect, I find this life more often resembles a comedy of errors. Just so, my eyes are open to this simple truth. It is certainly mundane in its moments. “Aye, there’s the rub!” This must be why I’ve seen Ophelia floating in my bathtub!

Entrenched in my early evening hustle, I stole a peek in on my little girl in the bathtub, convinced I would find her, either slyly coaxing the kitten into the water with her, or more likely, still running about the upstairs hall unclothed and searching for bath-time companions. Neither of which would involve actually washing her body, as she was sent there to do.

Act I: Scene I The curtain lay closed.

I first spied the Fisher-Price wind-up record player on the bath’s edge. Weary tines played out “Jack and Jill went up the hill,” on the child’s music box. “To fetch a pail of water.” Soft tin tones, composed of a melodious tinkle and plunk on the tines, lured me into a calmer state of mind. All remained still on the other side of the curtain, as I pulled it to the side, practiced in the stealthy art of spying on my children.

Lo, and behold! Nay, thine eyes do not deceive me! There she lies, her young fair-skinned little body, floating weightless in the water, effortless. “To fetch a pail of water.” Fine eyelashes lay feathered against her cheeks. Yellow-haired wisps rippled beneath waves of warm water, in deliberate movement, beckoning me into the silent depths of her reverie, as shadow and light played on the exposed surface of her skin.

Dissolved, were my feelings of injustice sprinting through my veins only moments before, at the thought of having to enforce discipline, rather than getting on with the business of running a household. The child was in the place where she was supposed to be, after all. In that moment, I was jarred into a child’s daydream, alone in my thoughts, lighter than water. Changing over the laundry, answering the phone, stirring the pot on the stove with the wooden spoon I still held in my hand, seemingly not as urgent. I was given a glimpse into my own childhood; a less complicated existence overflowing with perfection. Safe. Warm. Happy.

“… and Jill went tumbling after …” I left her there, unaware of my barging in on her big scene in my small play. Someday I’ll write it down, I promise myself, and she’ll know. Until then, I’ll exercise more patience, keep my eyes open, and try never to throw my Ophelia out with the bathwater.

The end … of the beginning.

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