“Write about the hot tub,” they say. I’ve done a quick write in front of them, randomly listing childhood memories. Trampoline and Hide-n-Go Seek haven’t piqued their interest in quite the same way as hot tub.
I laugh. “Sadly, there’s not much to say. We had a hot tub in our backyard when I was in high school… nothing really happened there.” I trail off and end up writing about the trampoline after all, shaping the story, modeling various openings, playing with structure.
I don’t tell them that images of the hot tub bubble in the back of my mind. Look: my sisters and I are playing in the warm water, snow on the deck. There: I am 13 and awkward, wearing my bubble gum pink bathing suit, my hair pulled back – the photograph reveals a liminal beauty that I can only now appreciate. Over here: My birthday party, fifteen-year-old girls full of high spirits and loud laughter, though in every photo of the evening our heads are hidden in our arms, as shy away from the very lens we crave. “We’re in our bathing suits!” someone had squealed and the camera was put away.
Was that the night the boys crashed the party? Possibly, but even that phrase implies a wildness we didn’t embody. Maybe I should rewrite it and say, “was that the night that Michael and some friends came over while we were outside and we sort of pretended to scream but mostly chatted?” Or maybe both ways of telling the story are true.
How disappointed they would be with the truth: “The hot tub story” isn’t really a story, and it isn’t salacious. The hot tub is evenings with family, breath-holding contests with my sisters, a science fair project done with my dad (about the chemicals – the only science fair I ever won. Figures that it was about that hot tub.) I know what my students expected to hear when “hot tub” appeared in my list. Instead it’s moments of connection with my family and friends, moments from a time so distant it seems almost unimaginable now.
On the other hand, the trampoline – now, *that’s* a story.