The Copper Tub

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The Copper Tub

I’m not sure what to do with the copper tub, but I know one thing — it’s not for sale.

It is oval, dented in many spots and even has one leaky spot. It sits with nothing inside. It’s not being used as a planter, doesn’t hold unused magazines, boots or umbrellas.

It is filled instead, with my childhood moments. They’re invisible, but if they had weight, I would not be able to lift the tub.

I am transported to a time in the 60’s when our farm family had no running water indoors. The night is sultry, heavy with July heat and impending storms, but it’s Saturday night and with church tomorrow, no family member will go unwashed.

We fill buckets with icy, hard water from the farm pump up at the barn, then walk to the house, water sloshing over the sides of the metal pail. Mom is heating the water in teakettles, and it’s more-than-warm to the touch.

The three of us older kids take turns with the teakettle in one hand and the last of the cold water in the other, walk-running down to our Dad’s shop.

The shop is an 6 by 8-foot wooden shed, with two steps up. It does, after all, sit next to the slough and if water is high, Dad’s tools are safe. It has a pull-string for the 60 watt bulb and the light reminds me of Atticus’ reading light outside the jailhouse as he waited for the townspeople to approach in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Just inside the door sits the copper tub — our bathtub. We pour the steaming water inside. A couple more trips and the bath is ready.

We take turns with who goes first during bath nights, changing water more frequently if we’d spent the day picking rock or hauling bales. Tonight, I go first. The sound of water has drawn a crowd, and as I step out of flip-flops and shed my top and shorts, I glance over my shoulder to see a mama duck and her babies staring back at me.

I step slowly over the edge of the tub. I’m short and must be careful not to slip as I sink down into the country bath. I’m small enough so that I can nearly disappear behind the tub’s rim and I decide to make a game of hide-and-seek with the ducks and now my kitty, Thomasena, who also has made an appearance.

The wash cloth is scratchy, but clean. It smells like outside. I rub my arms and legs, and scrub extra hard on my knees and elbows. Mom always checks.

I think about Sunday School tomorrow and Vacation Bible School coming up, how we get to bring our lunches, and I hope Mom puts a candy bar in mine.

About 20 minutes into my thoughtful meanderings, I hear Mom call, “Carla, times’ up!” My sister is next in, and even as I grab the edges of the copper tub to stand, I hear the soft thud of her feet covering the distance.


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