Inhale deeply, and suck in the moment. Hold it there, hostage, and feel the heat. Heat, practically scalding. No, that isn’t true—it's that perfect temperature that rises upward from tip of toe, ankle, calf, thigh, onward. There is a momentary shock at the change, and then immediately a rush of relaxation.
The smell of Epsom salt and hard water. A book set to the side of the tub and overhead a pleasantly dimmed stream of light. The hands go into the water last, as they are worked over well enough to not know a temperature change. It was a picture of happiness at 11 PM.
Rewind three hours. I stood in the kitchen. Flour sprinkles fluttered into the air like light bits of snow tossed by the wind. The tot sat on the counter stirring a bowl of white and brown snow feverishly. Then her hands began patting down the flour mixture as I twisted my lips, wondering how much baking powder still remained within.
There was enough baking powder.
“Bad baby!” The boy scolded, and reached to get the spoon from her hand. The tot of course resisted, and an explosion of sound and flailing limbs took over all the efforts to stir the bowl. I pulled my well-worked hands out of the almost scalding dishwater.
“Did I hear ‘bad baby?’ Ten jumping jacks!” I called out. Bad Baby became an outlawed phrase in this house after it began to be thrown around to incite riots. The boy let out a sigh and the riot disbursed.
I twisted my lips into a smile at the sight of the tot covered from head to toe in flour and cocoa powder, and the boy jumping about the kitchen like a duck trying to take flight, but never quite getting off the ground. The boy’s karate instructor would be proud. It was a picture of happiness at 7 PM.
Rewind seven hours. I was sitting at the dining room table gazing down at the stone surface with the sheen rubbed away by countless removals of dried glue and marker. Textbooks were scattered around, as well as the practice clock for learning to tell time, crayons and markers, a glue stick and many paper trimmings.
Bugs, bones, and books.
I stared at my well-worked hands. They had left a fingernail indention in the thin pages of a math book that morning as a problem was worked through. They had made notes and adjusted the way the tot held her pencil. They had brought new ideas to young brains.
All of the mess on the table had to be cleaned up again, but it was all worth it. It was a picture of happiness at 1 PM.
Rewind six hours. I was having a dream that someone was asking me how to teach a child to read. I was telling them, “You start when they are only grunting,” and then I realized what strange advice that was. My unconscious mind debated it with my conscious mind, until my conscious mind paused to say “What the hell is that grunting sound?”
And then the grunt sounded directly against my ear, and a large tongue slathered across my cheek. I opened my eyes to big, gold, non-human eyes. I cradled Big Dog’s face against me, running well-worked hands into his thick, wiry hair. It was a picture of happiness at 7 AM.
Hands that don't look well-worked in this picture, but I assure you, they are.
Rewind eight more hours and here we are again. Inhale deeply, and suck in a moment. Hold it there, hostage, and feel the heat. Heat, practically scalding. I admire the well-worked hands. I hold that moment hostage, and feel the happiness at 11 PM.