Silly, Sudsy Joy in My Aunt's Tub


GETTING to my Aunt Minnie's house took five miles journeying and six half-hours. It was worth it.

Waiting there for me was my aunt's bathtub. The joy of my 7-year-old world.

On journeying day, Dutch doorstep scrubbing went on between my sister and me in the bathtub: gouging ears clean, brushing elbows and knees almost off, tugging hair, yelling about soapy eyes, grabbing towels. We blew soap bubbles on the side.

Then my sister and I, with Mother, went to the river-boat landing, took the ferryboat, jumped off and ran up the steep banks to the streetcar barn. Getting on the trolley car, we marked time on the tracks by watching the watchful conductor watching his watch. We saw the trolley pole switching. Starter cranking, motor contacting.

All aboard!

And away started our scrubbed family threesome down four jolly miles to Aunt Minnie's tall, black, twin front doors. And my secret love - the tub.

Two miles into the trip risky business awaited: crossing over the high condemned Mill Creek trestle. Of course, Mother primed us for this venturesome interlude. Huddling us together, her solemn face hushed us up. Looking down at the creek bottomlands we had to cross double-hushed us. The swaying track caused troubled feelings as our motorman inched, inched along. But we had to sit it out. And we did. Safe!

Daring business? But daring business was my specialty. Trying bold things most second graders wouldn't do. Couldn't do. Shouldn't do. Like darting across the street in front of our neighbor's black Dodge speeding down Main Street at 15 miles per hour. Or jumping off our garage roof using mother's best ecru linen umbrella as my parachute.

Fare time came next on our journey. The conductor - all business, never so much as glancing at his nickel-plated money changer - collected our nickels. Even though the car swayed, he stood straight; he had a stance like a mule, and long stretchable arms that always got the fare rung.

When we neared the town limits, excitement took over. The right-of-way in the street center definitely belonged to our motorman. All Second Avenue was his too. Everything moved over as he clanged along. Skittish horses reared, withdrew. Romping boys scooted off the track just in time. Model T speed-demons kept proper distance.

Each streetcar stop brought my bathtub rendezvous closer. Sometimes the on-and-off passengers slowed things a bit: special conductor courtesy to ladies ``going calling'' in their hobble skirts, needing assistance at the almost too-high trolley steps.

Going down Second Avenue, time almost didn't happen. Our motorman didn't have a pushy bone in him. Anyone could flag him down for a favor. Housewives needing a spool of thread from the town department store were never disappointed. Lady-errand-running came easy for him. So did lever pulling, car stopping. Door opening. Door closing.

Everyone on his route was important to our conductor. He took time to like us. His trolley clientele was like a country-club roster. We belonged. And we knew it.

At Pine Street, journeying halted. The trolley power pole jumped off the overhead electric wire. Out went the motorman. Contact. Emergency over, I settled down for the next few squares to dream about my tub.

The bathtub was gracefully long, standing high on shapely legs. Brushes and scrubbers all around. Towel racks. Soap dish. The bath seat set my favorite tub apart from all others. It hooked on either side. And there I sat in the center of things. Feet dangling. Thinking of soapy things to do.

Aunt Minnie's soap was different. Pink. Oval, hard, and scented. My bathroom ritual went like this: sit on the seat squirting slick pink soap at the tub's front side. Aim; squirt; thump! Retrieve. Then back up on the bath seat. Aim ... squirt ... thump... retrieve.... When the soap tricks were finished, I got a big-towel rubbing session.

Mother disapproved of my bath dilly-dallying. Naturally she never understood such prolonged toiletry.

Back to reality on the trolley. Mother beamed at my sister and me, ``Girls, you look so clean and fresh in your white middy suits. You could do without tubbing for a month.'' I agreed. Going-visiting-clean we were.

In front of Aunt Minnie's house, stepping off the trolley car, I remembered the bathtub. Wait for a month? How could I?

I ran eagerly to Aunt Minnie's tall, black twin front doors. Pushed the fat button bell. Into the deep entrance hall I marched, up the stairway's 20 polished oak steps to the open bathroom door.

I gazed at the enchantment within. Aunt Minnie's sweet bathtub. My heart throbbed.

Sunday-clean as I was, I got in.

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