Sometimes when the world feels big and mothering and working and writing feel like they’re eating me and my time alive, I turn to the sink. There’s something about that hot water washing away all last night’s leftovers and today’s anxieties. It can be hard to breathe inside your own head and water is good about loosening up the tied tongue, at least to pray.
A commissioning over that frying pan. I bought it just last week at Walmart for it’s turquoise blue base. Peter raised an eyebrow when I reached for it because, of course. That color holds my imagination. Today I wash it until my fingers feel pruney and my chest a bit less constricted. A woman’s skin can be a hard fit, harder even than a pair of skinny jeans.
I’ve zumba-ed for two weeks now and it’s the best therapy I know. All that sweat in a room full of women laughing at themselves in mirrors. Good for the ego, to see how we really look. Me so much older than I remember. When did I lose all sense of coordination? There was a time when I could take to a dance floor fearless. Those days are further away now, buried under layers of checking homework, doing read-alouds, folding the socks.
But it doesn’t stop me from rooting through my memory every Monday and Thursday for a refresher course. For a reminder that beauty now rides my hips with a very different silhouette than it used to, as I fail to shake them in time to Shakira. Beauty is part of me now, I don’t apply it like so much eye liner. I wear it. Even on the days I only wear sweat pants.
A son comes to bring me a blanket as I lie on the floor and keep an eye on Zoe in the bathtub. He pets my head. He tells me he likes my hair. This is where my beauty lives. A baby bats her eyelashes at me from over the edge of the soapy tub and I grin lopsided at her. I don’t like it when people tell me she looks like Pete. This one is mine. This girl, she is all mine.
So I wash out her bottles and don’t even pretend to have a plan for weaning her off them. I’m not in a rush. No rush to finish up this third round of parenting a baby. No rush to graduate elementary school. These boys are a hurtle through time and I will carefully sweep up the bread crumbs left over from their morning bagels and notice how much they ate and the legos they left in their trail.
The garbage disposal empties the sink of suds, of grease, of reminders from yesterday. I pray better in motion that when I am still. I pray best when the music is loud and I’m surrounded by others. Dancing can be worship. Oh I see you raise your eyebrow, but that’s OK. You didn’t know my mother.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo can be worship for a homesick South African girl who traces the roots of her story to a dark night in Zululand. It can be worship for a seven year old and his mom as they gumboot dance in a bright playroom surrounded by the Darth Vader masks and too many new baby dolls than can be good for the baby who’s watching. We dance and we pray, we wash dishes and we carpool. We work and we worship.
And some afternoons I wash the dishes quietly, by myself, and I remember to exhale.