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There is no question
that my parents stretched their early family dollars
to the snapping point, just like my father
pulled fishing worms apart in the garden
when he himself was a boy of four (“to make more,”
he told his mother, Lotus).
He and my mother always found creative ways to make it appear
that we had enough of whatever we needed.
One particular method of stretching dollars
came to the water bill.
When all of my sisters and my brother were old enough
to bathe themselves, I was still young enough
to require my mother’s assistance. Every other night
she would run a quarter-tub full of water
and take a quick bath herself. Then she would dry off,
get dressed, and call for me to come in.
Since she was interested in saving on the water bill,
she would simply add some bubble bath
to her own water,
and wash me up in that.
My bath was never too hot or too cold,
always the perfect temperature.
Afterwards, my mother would towel me off
with a big JC Penney towel, bigger than me even.
She always had my pajamas at the ready,
and she combed my short wet hair
into curly-cues with a kiss
before sending me out into the family fray.
I still believe that my baths were perfect
because my mother had been in the tub first,
warming the water for me. I know for sure
that my childhood days were perfect,
because I have chosen to remember them so.