Jane knocks on the door with her wing. She’s my friend, the mourning dove. We are about to hop in the tub together. I am 8-years-old and wearing my favorite bathing suit; the one that’s white with green strips. I have deep set eyes that always look like I’m up to something mischievous. Because I am. I filled the tub to the rim with water and bubbles are dripping over the sides.
We’re having a hoot. Suddenly, in lumbers Fred. He’s an aardvark with a bright red nose. As if on cue, this song plays,
I like ‘em big
I like ‘em chunky
I like ‘em big
I like ‘em plumpy
I like ‘em round
With something, something
They like my sound
They think I’m funky
Fred laughs so hard he loses his balance and falls to the floor in a sprawled-out heap. He sobs. He says he used to laugh. He wants to get in the tub with us. There’s room for him, but he feels he doesn’t fit in. Jane and I say, “Fred, the world doesn’t need to conform to you, but you must conform to your world.”
I’m trying to get him to love himself the way he is. Fred gets up off the floor. He laughs. He’s moving his head and his nose is leading the way.
Jane and I keep playing when the door swings open again. Its Ricky Majors – the kid from school. He cheats on tests and games flipping baseball cards where he glues them together so whatever card he picks wins. The song plays,
You’re beautiful, it’s true
There must be an angel with a smile on her face
When she thought up that I should be with you
Ricky wants to join us, but he lies. Jane and I used to lie and cheat but not tell anybody because we were afraid of getting into trouble. Ricky admits he lies to appear cool and hides stuff. He says, “my parents say you’re never going to amount to anything. I cheat to prove them wrong.” Jane coos in my ear, “tell Ricky a secret can poison you.”
And then everyone’s faces brighten. Through the door walks my Dad. He’s hilarious. I love him. I am safe with him. The song plays,
Let them knock you around
Let the good times roll
Let them make you a clown
Let the stories be told
Let them say what they want
Let the photos be old
Let them show what they want
He’s just come home from work and still in his business suit. He climbs into the tub to be with me. Then starts to stand up. He’s just slow.
When he leaves the tub, I’m afraid I won’t be okay without him.
He says, “Ro, life is an exciting journey. A long time from now, if I’m not here, you may not get as big a bite, but you’re still getting your bite.”