July 7th, 2010

*written on June 24, 2010*

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11

We live in a 700 square foot basement apartment. We’ve proposed calling our little house a “flat” or a “nest” or a “garden apartment,” notwithstanding its lack of a garden. In this tiny garden apartment minus garden, there is a tiny bathroom, and in the bathroom, a smallish shower with water flow that alternates too quickly between hot and cold.

The tiny shower is just a shower–we don’t have a bathtub. Which is too bad, really. They’re so good for bathing dogs and babies. And for an old-fashioned, relaxing soak. Along with my sister, Ever, I worship good bathtubs. She had a big, beautiful clawfoot tub in her old house in Brookland. It was so big you could actually fill it up and lounge, take a REAL bath—and crank open a beautiful window right next to the tub, look out over the neighborhood.

Her new house is practically perfect in every way, except it lacks a lovely, big tub. Recently, during a vacation weekend at a rented farmhouse, which had a respectable clawfoot in a little white bathroom, Ever and I lamented our sad lack of bathtubs back home, while my sister Mary listened in amusement.

In my childhood home, we had four bathrooms. Which seems like a lot but isn’t, considering how many people lived there. My sister, Rosemary, and I shared what we called the “nursery bedroom” as teenagers, the one next to my parents’ room that once upon a time housed the babies of the family, Rosy and me included.

Attached to this bedroom is the “nursery bathroom”—which had two sinks separated by a sliding door. One entire wall was cabinets filled with boxes of baby clothes, long after the youngest had grown up. And there was one big tub that was big enough to take a good bath in.

During bathtime when I was a kid, I would slide my head under the water and listen to the sounds of the pipes, which when amplified by imagination and the conductivity of water, sound waves and liquid pressed against watery ear drums, would became a whole underground, unseen world of caves and caverns filled with giants building castles or schools of fish engineering great wonders underneath the surface of the ocean.

These distant echoings and fantasies were so comforting to me that even as a teenager I would think of that other world underneath the surface of the earth, far below the foundations of our big, low house next to a field in Texas. This was a good place to go, a good place to think of when the above ground world was overmuch, too much to think about or fix or bend to my dreams of healing.

I always took a bubble bath after a bad day at school or if I was tired or just sad. During my teenage years, when my spinal problems got worse as I had growth spurts, I would take a bath in epsom salts to soothe the pain that increasingly took over my thoughts as I grew into adulthood.

Rosy would lie on her bed in the bedroom and talk with me through the open bathroom door. We would spend an hour like this, chattering about homework and friends, the state of disorder in our room, what we would make for dinner or what we could do on Saturday morning. Sometimes she would read to me. Anne of Green Gables. Peter and the Princess. The Mixed up Files of Miss Basil E. Frankweiler. Pride and Prejudice.

A few years later, in college, I retreated to bubble baths when my brother died. In the midst of parties I stopped attending and movies I stopped watching, when I should have been reading or studying for comprehensive exams, I would make a bath and just lay there for a while, drinking a glass of wine to calm my incessant need to swallow until my throat was raw. Sometimes, I wept until the water was cold and the pain in my chest gathered to a spanned out feeling like a bridge widening my clavicle, or a rock embedding in the muscles of my heart.


Water is healing. It also reminds us to cry. All of this about baths and water and my childhood is meant to explain why I remember crying in the shower the morning we found out about Ian. In this tiny shower in our tiny house, I leaned my head against the tile and wept.

It was one year ago—June 24, 2009, the feast day of St. John the Baptist, who poured water over Christ’s head and baptized him in the Jordan.

I cried like I hadn’t in a very long time.

Most days I didn’t mind waiting for my baby. But that day I was sure he would never come. And while I was weeping in the shower, I heard the phone ring. On the power of premonition, or perhaps imagination, I immediately knew it was *the* call. About our baby, the one we had been waiting for.

A baby boy, born last week in Florida. A lawyer we’ve worked with before is trying to find him a home. There are some concerns. Medical complications. We’re sending you an email.

And that was that. I didn’t even have to call Nick, because I knew what his answer would be.


Yes, yes, yes.

12 Responses to “Water”

  1. Claire Says:

    This is beautiful. You reminded me of how I used to listen under the bathwater (although with not such an imagination!). And of many a good and bad cry I’ve had in the shower.

  2. Laura Says:

    What a touching and haunting post! One day I hope you have a tub big enough for Ian’s imagination.

  3. Jennifer Says:

    This gave me goosebumps. Absolutely beautiful.

  4. Molly Says:

    What a lovely post. I remember listening under that bathwater, too! Everything is so magical when you’re small. Your story is beautiful, and your telling, profound.

  5. Elizabeth Says:

    This is a beautiful post. I often experience water in the shower or bath as the physical equivalent of grace. It sure feels good to soak it up!!

  6. Marlena Says:

    So, so beautiful. One of the best weeks of my life was a family vacation at a lake, far from anything and with nothing to do but enjoy the water. I would literally float for hours and it was, indeed, very healing.

  7. Kristal Says:

    The day I found out about Ian, although I don’t quite remember how phone, e-mail, etc., I sat down and cried. It was joy – never have I met two people more deserving of a child, a family, of everything they have ever wanted. It was relief – the long wait was over. No more would these people stare at an empty crib and wonder: when? It was hope – that maybe if I kept my head up, kept trying, kept hoping, kept going, that I too would find what I was searching for. It was happiness – this child will undoubtedly have a life filled with love and happiness and joy for the rest of his life. And that’s just about enough to make anyone cry.

  8. Sean Says:

    The sacred is neither happy nor sad; it is something that transcends both while containing characteristics of both.

    Also, we have a claw-footed bathtub in our new house; let that be yet another inducement to come visit.

  9. Danielle Says:

    Thank you for reminding me why I read every single word you write.

  10. Ann Says:

    Yes, water. I used to listen too and I still do. To me it is like going inside of yourself, to a place somehow familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. When swimming with a new little life the quiet under the water makes me feel as if they can hear me praying, “please stay with me this time”.

  11. Angela Says:

    Maureen, your and Nick’s story is so inspiring. My closest childhood friend is going through the same heartache you have gone through trying to have a family and adopt. This gives them and myself hope that someday they too may be blessed with a child. Beautiful writings, I look forward to reading more.

  12. Anne Says:

    I had to tell you, Maureen – when I was helping my nephew wash his hands this weekend, he turned to me and said, “Water just feels so good.” It made me smile and think of you!

Leave a Reply