Most of us, without a doubt, remember the old nursery rhyme that starts with ‘Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub...’

With temperatures and humidity being higher than we are accustomed to this summer, the topic of water is never far from everyone’s thoughts, whether it be drinking plenty to avoid dehydration or taking a cold shower to cool down.

How easy it has become to take a bath or shower, or play in the water if we feel inclined to do so. Even if we don’t have space or can’t afford to install a proper swimming pool in the back yard, it’s fairly easy to set up a temporary inflatable pool.

But it wasn’t always that easy. How many of you remember the old galvanized wash tub that was brought out once a week and filled with water that had been heated on the wood stove? Saturday night was usually bath night, to wash away the dirt of the past week and be clean enough to wear your best clothes for church the next day.

From what I remember, pots of water drawn from the well would be placed on the stove and left there until it was hot enough. Then the huge old tub was placed in the centre of the kitchen floor. It was large enough for me to sit in comfortably. Mom made sure I was properly scrubbed but there were no bath toys to make it a fun experience like the kids today have. Besides, the weekly bath was a serious occasion with no time to play because other family members were waiting to use the tub. Of course there was never any danger that visitors might drop in during the process because every family in the community was doing the same thing.

We had no swimming pools either. Sometimes we used smaller tubs of water to play in outside during the summer. I have a photo of myself and two cousins engaged in that activity – I won’t tell you how many years ago it was taken! And we had the ocean too, because we lived in a very small, isolated community very close to the ocean.

My mother told me of an incident that happened when I was just three years old which – thankfully – I don’t remember, but I do have the picture to prove it. The children of the community apparently favoured a spot between the fishing stages, not far from our house, to wade into the water.

On this particular day I apparently wandered from the yard and decided to join those in the water. Having made the decision, I calmly stripped off my clothes, went into the water, and sat down. Needless to say, Mom was upset with me, first for wandering away and secondly for getting into the water when I had been told not to go near it. Still, she went back to the house for the camera before pulling me ashore.

She later told me that my Godmother had come along and said: ‘Don’t you get mad with her. She just wanted to play with the other youngsters.’ I still have those photos and I cherish the memories they bring back. Ah, how times have changed. Sometimes I find myself wondering if that was the good old days.

© Fay Herridge
Published in Canadian Stories, Oct/Nov 2018

Non-fiction 1

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