September 27, 2010
It’s bath time chez McCafferty, a nighttime ritual I thoroughly enjoy and try to assist in every evening. I love this regime because in part it signifies the impending glory of “me time”, and also because the darkness summons the arrival of “happy Justin”, who unlike his younger brother, actually wants to go to bed every single night.
This evening is unfolding pretty much like any other, with my firstborn eventually having to be peeled from my body and deterred long enough from his hugging to actually enter the bathtub, and with my youngest racing up and down the hallway, diaper askew, trying desperately to stall what he knows is the beginning to the end of his day. One wants to please, one could care less. That’s pretty much how it goes the rest of the day too.
Eventually I am able to plop the two of them in the tub, lather their little bodies and wash them clean of the day’s dirt, hopefully both physically and metaphorically. I lean over to release the plug and turn on the “rain” to further cleanse them, a euphemism for the shower my husband and I came up with to soothe Zach’s fears of the pounding pulse of water. I pull back a bit of the curtain and sneakily watch them, see Justin’s upturned mouth trying to snare a few drops of liquid, watch Zach splash gleefully behind him, the caboose to Justin’s engineer. Together, they paint a rather adorable tableau, and I’m happy to witness it.
All too soon I ease the spigot to the right, ending access to the warm torrent enveloping them, and call for Jeff to “come get one”. As with most things McCafferty this event is a two-person gig, so I settle down on my bathtub perch, prepare to butcher some nursery rhymes, and try to keep the bathroom floor from resembling our pool after a good long rain. I reach back to grab Justin’s cookie monster towel to get started on the hair drying portion of this evening, and as I begin my swivel backwards I hear a loud noise, one which is generally unfamiliar in this household.
I turn back just in time to see Zach about to plant a second raspberry on Justin’s glistening shoulder. I have enough time to consider the irony, since both regard fruit as the devil incarnate, before a second burst of sound echoes the first. My youngest sits back proudly, content in his handiwork, and I can tell he’s gearing up to go for round three. Zach doesn’t usually initiate physical contact with Justin, so I’m pleased he’s begun this game, even though I know that Justin won’t reciprocate, won’t respond to Zach’s overture at all.
Except, this time, he does.
Justin pivots around, looks Zach square in the eyes, and laughs, one of those great, heartfelt belly laughs that our world leaders should be subjected to on a daily basis, because it is impossible to remain angry while being immersed in one. He rocks back a little and clenches his hands, maintaining a visual on my youngest’s face, and emits sounds of glee I can honestly say I don’t remember hearing from him before. Then he goes for the kill, the moment that will make it to my baby diaries, the one I don’t even need the camera to remember it by. He turns back to the slightly dripping faucets, takes a breath, and leans back into his brother. The movement is slow, deliberate. I can see his face lit up in anticipation. He wants Zach to do it again.
Justin wants to play with his brother.
I know these moments unfold with great regularity in other households, perhaps would not even be recognized, much less cherished, in most other abodes. But tonight, not only have my children interacted with one another, but my oldest has reciprocated without his mother’s meddling, a precious, and unprecedented act.
The game in its entirety lasted approximately thirty seconds, and soon Zachary is lamenting the lack of surrounding suds, a ritual in which he engages every evening in the hopes I’ll prolong the bath and thus his slumber. The spell is broken, magic concluded for one day.
But I have the memory, the moment, and most importantly the knowledge that if it occurred once, something like it could happen again. And to me, that is the best bedtime story of all.