What If

I hated taking a bath at my grandparents’ (on my mother’s side) house. Hated it. The bathroom was always drafty and uncomfortable and the hot water never lasted. Taking a bath in that tub was a production I dreaded anytime we went there for more than a day.

The main issue was of course the hot water situation. When the water was first turned on, it was piping hot, but soon the heat vanished. When I was very young, I thought this should excuse  me from a bath, but it never did.

“Mom!” I cried, “The water’s getting too cold. I should get out.”

She came in and adjust the water settings. She turned the cold tap off and the hot all the way on, but the water would just get colder. I went from sitting in an almost, but not quite, warm tub, to a very cool one.

“I-I sh-should really get out. I’m fre-fre-freezing in here.”

“Stop exaggerating.”

“What’s exaggerating?”

“What you’re doing right now.” I could only determine that exaggerating meant freezing.

“But I’m cold,” I whined. I said this to her back though. She already walked through the door.

She returned soon with a tea kettle filled with hot water and poured it in the bath.

“That should help,” she said. It didn’t. The bath went from cool to not quite as cool.

She repeated the fix, but the was an inherent problem. It takes a while to boil water, so the bath was already cooled back down before the next kettle full was added.

We repeated this dance every time I took a bath there. I came to loathe spending the night because of it. One thing that always confused me was that it was never fixed. I don;t even know if a professional ever looked at it. That bathtub had the same problem as long as my grandparents lived there. It was just how it was.

My grandfather died while I was in middle school. My grandmother was already in a nursing home, so my mom and her brothers soon sold the house. One thing that came out of this process was that the bathtub got fixed. All those years of cold baths came down to one problem: the plumbing for that tub was reversed.

The real problem, of course, was us. We never questioned or tested the water situation. The bathtub had a problem and that was that. All those years we could have had nice warm baths if we just didn’t turn off the tap labeled “Cold.” The hot water was there, we just blindly ignored it because it had the wrong name.

Maybe that’s why I now have a tendency to question everything (which greatly annoys my wife). I now refuse to assume that things have to be the way others say they are and I find myself wondering what it would look like if we all questioned things more often. What if we determined many of issues facing our society actually could be addressed and improved? What if it was as simple as discovering the labels and names we assign to one another may not be correct? That we might be wrong about some of those labels?

What if we took a chance and turned the tap, the one we think will bring only coldness? What if we turned it and discovered warmth. What if we made the effort and found the labels and names have no real meaning and just distract us from what they truly provide? What if we admitted we were wrong about one another? What if we searched for commonality instead of differences? What if we worked to make it work instead of assuming that’s just how it is?

What we really made the effort?

What if I made the effort?

What if you did?

What if?

© Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Leighton Brown is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information, please see the Copyright page.
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About leighton

I could be considered a true Renaissance Man after having a long and storied (seriously, people actually tell stories about it) college experience and varied careers. I am also a shameless self-promoter (who did you think was writing this anyway?) who is prone to flights of fancy, an abundance of passion on any given subject, ,obsessive behavior, spontaneous storytelling (whether anyone listens or not), and making parenthetical references. I would also be thrilled if I heard someone use the word "raconteur" to describe me.
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One Response to What If

  1. Great lesson. How’s your dad?

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