Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Tomoko Ferguson
On the eve of my 44th birthday, I swat away thoughts of how 44 is a bad luck number.
"Shi," or "four" in Japanese, also means "death." My mother would say 44 or two times death does not bode well.
So I decide to soak in a soothing bath of mineral salts to meditate. I am determined to defy this "two times death," to allow it to float away. I throw big chunks of lavender-scented sea salts into steaming hot water tumbling down from the faucet. I ease myself into the quiet, hot water, moving as if in slow motion. When I am immersed to my chin, my body relaxes; my spirits rise, buoyed by the water.
But the bath's clear, calm water acts like a magnifying glass. The floppy, flowing skin on my belly distracts my eyes. I see wrinkles and old brown stretch marks swaying like kelp.
"It didn't always look like this," I mutter remembering a belly that was once taut, smooth and beautiful. I glide my washcloth over my loose skin and slide deeper into the water, sinking my ears into warmness. Rather than silence, the water brings to my ears the steady, repetitive sound of my breathing, amplified as if I've pulled myself within me. I am a child in my own womb listening and learning from my breath.
"Mama, your belly is stretched out, because it has been home to three babies." My eight-year-old son's recent words surface and touch me gently. He had patted and hugged my belly as he said these words. Home to three babies. Home is where the heart is. To him, my now wrinkly, loose belly is his place of origin, his brother and sister's place of origin. He loves my belly and now I realize, I love it, too. And I smile.
Now my two year-old's voice, "Ma—Ma—," spills into my meditation like water overflowing the tub. My daughter enters the bathroom, her full round face the lady moon. A yellow balloon bobs in after her.
"Are you taking a bath, Mama? Are you want bath toys, Mama?" Her deep brown eyes lock on mine. Her love—-pure and thoughtful-—mixes with the tub's warm waters to surround me. In that moment there is nothing but that moment. And in that moment, 44 disappears into thin air like steam departing from hot water.
Tomoko Ferguson lives in San Anselmo, CA with her husband, three children, three chickens, a dog, and goldfish. She believes when we sit quietly (in the tub or elsewhere) we open ourselves to daily gifts from nature, our children and friends. Her work appears in Vintage Voices, Cent’Anni.
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