We were so tired when we got home from the county fair last night I let the girls go to bed after merely washing their hands and faces. But today is Nora’s First Day of School – actually just a transitional hour in the preschool classroom, but we’ll treat it like the real deal, photos and all – so we must get clean and shiny. After breakfast, I draw her a bath.
“Yay!” She is happy to slip around in the water, rinsing off the dust of Wisconsin’s livestock barns.
“No drinking!” I warn her. She gives me a guilty glance, her cheeks already puffed out.
The flotilla of plastic bath toys fill the entire surface of the tub along with a few Polly Pockets never designed to withstand a dousing. Nora squeaks high and growls low in conversation with tiny plastic Diego and his swim friend Grover.
“Do the mermaid,” I tell her, the cue to lean her head back under the faucet to get her hair wet for the shampoo. “Look up at the stars.” Her face is utterly serious with concentration, her tiny shoulders held up high as she negotiates the safest way to lean back on her elbows and tilt her trusting head. I sluice the water over the blond-white curls on the sides of her head. Her fluffy thin hair changes to long, dark and slippery strands, revealing the heart-breaking curve of her round forehead.
I ignore the dark spots in the tile grout but I have to put my knees on the cracked floor tiles as I wash Nora's hair. It’s an awful bathroom that we've endured for four years, but with a hopeful act that requires all my courage, I've agreed to let strangers enter our home for three weeks, break apart the tile, the walls, the floor and replace the old with new. If the tile we use is fashioned from recycled glass, the vanity from bamboo and the toilet is low-flow, have we balanced our green karma against the guilt of adding this room's discarded skin to landfill?Continued on the next page