Home – Downstairs Bathroom

August 22nd, 2010

For those who dare to leap over the hole in the floor – executing a sharp left turn in mid-air – the next stop is the downstairs bathroom. Unlike most of the other rooms in the house, it actually has a door which is pale green on one side, off-white on the other, and has a curved wooden handle and a hook-and-eye lock which we are not supposed to use. The lock is, in fact, always on the verge of falling out as a result of children beating on one side of the door, while a recalcitrant door-locker refuses to open the door and give up the promise of privacy.

A beautiful sink set into a hand-made wooden cabinet stands in the corner, and since the plumbing is never hooked up, it remains preternaturally beautiful forever. Over the toilet, which only works part of the time due to the repeated flushing of unflushable objects, hangs a giant cracked mirror that is penetrated by flakes of grey and silver.

The end of the small room is held down by a short but deep claw-footed bathtub that has been encased in a wooden box. There is a crack in the wood that leads to some dark, impenetrable place, and many groggy early mornings are spent staring into the mystery wondering what might be hidden in its depths. When we are appropriately small, four of us can fit in the bathtub at once, rendering bath time a highly amusing affair with the potential for efficiency interrupted by the potential for airborne soap, bath toys and the smallest of the children. The wall above the bathtub is a palimpsest of all the wallpapers that have ever adorned the room – solid in some places, but peeled away in others to reveal a historical cross-section of changing designs descending finally to bare cement. The bathtub, too, has delicate plumbing and often stops working. Sometimes we plug the drain and bring buckets of heated water in from the cook stove in the kitchen, then ladle them back out afterwards. The labor involved generally compels multiple children to use the same bathwater, and we are fierce in competing for our placement in the queue.

This is the room where our hair is cut. For the girls, this is also the room where we are given our permanents – sitting for hours on the lid of the toilet while miniature curlers are applied to our heads, then again in the bathtub while the chemicals marinate under our plastic caps, emerging later with our heads full of glorious curly hair.

This is also the room where, temporarily, we install a 1950’s washing machine – the kind that has a wringer attached to the back of the basin. Squeezing out the wet laundry piece by piece is so much fun, I am convinced that it makes up for the time it takes to manually fill and drain the tub.

This is also the room where the bottom part of a particularly wide and deep-set built-in shelf has been converted into a cat cage. We keep various cats here over the years as the breeding of purebred Himalayans wanders into and then out of our family culture. The cat cage is a particularly contentious subject as no one wants to clean it. My first pet lived here for a time, until she escaped from the cage and through a hole in the floor – emerging days later so weak that we could do nothing to save her.

This is also the room where many important conversations of either a disciplinary, or soul-searching nature occur – child leaning against the doorframe, talking with a parent who is preparing for the day, or for bed, or placing wet laundry on hangers.

When we have guests, all of the objects on both sets of shelves – the cat cage shelf, and a more conventional floor-to-ceiling shelf laden with bathroom necessities – are arranged into straight lines, and pretty curtains transform them into lace covered cabinets.

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