The Bathroom

The Carlisle house.

The upstairs bathroom, the kid’s bathroom, was at the top of the stairs and in the middle of the hall. A bathtub with showering capabilities and a toilet were provided on the opposite side of the double sinks and counter. I experienced life’s measurements in the bathroom.

The muddy blue double sinks were separated by a light tan Formica counter. During my pixie-haircut days as a preschooler, Mom would plop me on that counter in the middle of the two sinks, while Ann, my older half-sister, would cut my bangs. I felt insecure underneath while seated on the slippery surface. With a towel snug around my neck, my stylist whispered in my ear, “keep still now, real still,” as she came at me with a pair of long scissors, adding to my nervousness. As a young one, I’d situate my little body just so in the middle of the counter so my head would hang over “my” sink, the closest to the window, so Mom could wash my hair with Johnson’s baby shampoo. The counter was hard and unforgiving, but not as much as the curve of the cold porcelain under my neck. I strained to keep my head from falling too far back and adjusted the towel roll, giving my neck an ache. I let the outside noise of kids playing in a game of “tag” travel through the open window and distract my discomfort. After I was towel dried and combed out, I hopped on my green Schwinn and let the breeze take my honey colored waves with it, turning my head from side to side, smelling the cleanliness of shampoo under my nose and the freedom from riding my 3-speed and freshly washed hair.

A dull gold framed oval mirror hung on a wall of floral red, white and light blue paper above our sinks, and reflected our images that changed through the years. The mirror no longer revealed a toothy smile but a painful grin of metal tracks across my teeth. The mirror told me just how far to open to paste tiny squares of white wax on the sharp points of the teeth straighteners as I leaned over the sink. And what would braces be without pigtails?  Like Pippi Longstocking, maybe, only I didn’t have red hair and I don’t think she ever had braces. My constant need for perfection, even starting at an early age, found me struggling with the placement of pigtails to be as evenly situated at the sides of my head as possible, hoping the mirror would fix the crookedness. Maybe I always leaned to one side?

The bathroom witnessed my maturity as I shaved my legs for the first time, propping a leg up on the sink curve and lightly stroking the razor up my shin, feeling the newly tender damp skin. I tried to define what little was already there with my first applications of make-up, the silent smoothing of blush on my already flushed cheeks and the delicate application of black mascara. I sprayed “Sunlight” in my hair after a good shampooing in the shower, to bring “natural” highlights to my honey-colored, sun-bleached hair.

The glass on double-hung window was covered with a plastic coating of marbling to diffuse the view of anyone looking in. The window remained cracked open most of the time because that was the only way anyone could see out. I think I always wanted access to the outside, to be able to see what was going on, if anything. The bathroom on Carlisle saw my identity take form through the years – a private place where it was just me growing up in the mirror and the outside.

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