We washed up well, scrubbing every bended knee and pointed elbow until raw. Grandma gathered us together, three at a time, and we hopped our protruding bellies into the large pink bathtub, the oversized green bar of soap rough against our slight hands.
“Can we put some toys in? Mom lets us bring our toys.” Every time, I attempted to persuade her to let me bring my dolls in for a lap or two, and every time she grew a little more tired of me asking.
“You wouldn’t have time to play with no toys if you focused on washing up.”
Unmoved by the rejection, and already working towards my next request, I imagined I had my doll anyway. A naked Barbie doll with oversized fake pearl earrings. One Christmas, I got her as a fully clothed gift from a generous and well-meaning church goer – the ones who made a point to extend a hand to deprived youth once a year. After which, they’d retreat back to their outlying homes felicitating themselves for such efforts.
Dripping wet, I rushed for the living room shrouded in a scratchy towel, and proudly provided my red tinged skin as proof of a job well done. She nodded in approval and urged me to get dressed for bed, and such began our Sunday night bedtime routine for sticky summer evenings. She never adjusted her sense of normalcy for us, and certainly never bended her will to our juvenile preferences. Instead, we all grew up a little – just for a short time, but long enough to enjoy something different than what home offered.