The children have been put to bed, their hair perfumed with fresh soap. Nathan still splashes his legs in adjustment to bath water, the uncontrollable jerks creating waves as expected as a ticking clock. He is no longer bathed in sponge-bath fashion, rather we watch his quickly-plumping legs weekly fill a little more of the small blow-up tub he now calls his own. It first belonged to his sister.
I remember her first bath: carefully setting out the foam mat, using four different wash cloths to clean her just as we were shown in the class we attended at the hospital. I remember moving her to the blow-up duck tub, the crazy splashing of legs in surprise at the water surrounding her, her serious panicked face. I can recall the first time I bathed her in a sink, the sink I used to get ready growing up in my parents' home, while visiting from Virginia. Her entire body fit easily curled up inside the ceramic bowl. After our move to Indiana, after her legs had grown long and thin, I remember her excitement at putting the duck tub to rest in lieu of "swimming" in the regular-sized tub.
For three short (and oh, so sweet) years, we have been privy to these sorts of progressions. We've been allowed to submerse ourselves in this little one: her acts, her shared thoughts, her love. Just as those baths (and bath tubs) have stretched and grown, so has the love, the range of her actions, and those shared thoughts. Thoughts such as these:
On Sunday, while looking at Nathan, Audrey said, "Someday, he'll get bigger and be able to play with me and then you'll have two kids, right?"
Tuesday, Jason told her, "You still have a boogie."
"I used to be your boogie?" she asked.
One of Audrey's preschool classmates just became the big brother of a little sister. He had proudly shown the class a picture of his new "sissy." After school, Audrey began referring to Nathan as "sissy." We explained that sissy was a nickname used for sisters and that Nathan might not appreciate being called by that name. Jason then offered up "bro" as an appropriate alternative. Audrey tried "bro" out, which oddly, sounded like "April." We're not sure Nathan will appreciate that, either.
Saturday, we attended the birthday party of one of Audrey's favorite friends. While there, Audrey was playing on a two-person swing, one propelled by the children's movement of their arms and legs against the swing. A two-and-a-half -year old rode with her, their backs facing one another. "Hold on tight," she told him. "Be careful." Then, as if stating her credentials for dishing out such authority, she said, "I'm a big sister."
Audrey, the big sister. Our girl of firsts. The first one to steal our hearts and keep us up all night. The first one to remind us what it felt like to fear the dark or revere a sheet's ability to become a fort. The first one to send us running for parenting books, to the pharmacy at night, and to catch frogs. The first one to teach us that unless you've been taught differently, everyone is a friend, no question is too silly to ask or difficult to be answered, and nothing is impossible. The first to make us think that maybe we could, maybe we should, do this all again. The one who showed us how seamlessly someone could take on a new role, how quickly a heart could stretch to house another, and that while you outgrow the duck tub, perhaps, you never outgrow the sink.
*This impromptu bath was courtesy of one last romp in the raised bed (following a rain storm) before it became a garden this weekend. Like many others, I'm sure it is a bath I will not soon forget, nor will I forget to remove the rock from the windowsill before performing such a bath again, lest I find it rattling the gears of the garbage disposal. Audrey: the first.