Lord Bumhampton climbed up on my lap. I nuzzled his little neck, he smelled of summer. Sometimes I’d lick my children’s arms just to smell the rich summer fragrance. It made them laugh, to see, and feel their mother licking their arms.
“I should take him in and give him a bath,” I said.
Mom didn’t say anything.
“I really should,” I said, halfheartedly.
“You know,” she said in a quiet voice, swinging the lawn swing with a slow rhythm, “there’s nothing says he has to bathe in the house. When I was a kid we bathed in a tin tub. Even a bucket would do.”
“I’ll be right back,” I said.
I set the bucket of warm water on the patio and tried to persuade my boy that bathing in a bucket was going to be fun. He wasn’t buying it. Getting naked in the back yard was out of his two-year-old comfort zone.
I swirled my hand in the water. He did too and soon he was splashing and laughing. He hardly noticed as I stripped his clothes off. When they were in a pile he stepped into the bucket and stood still while I soaped a washcloth and washed his plumb tummy, his arms and legs. I soaped the summer smell off his neck, then scooped water and let it cascade over his head. Water ran down his summer-browned arms and dripped off his fingers. I soaped his round little bottom and he laughed. Mom smiled.
When he was rinsed off I bundled him in a towel. Mom dried his hair with a corner of it and then wrapped the towel around him, tucking the end in so he could walk around. We called him our little Tongan.
I dumped the water on the grass. He poked at the wet grass with a stick and then came to get dressed. He climbed on my lap and snuggled down.
The stars came out; there were more stars then, city lights were fewer. Lord Bumhampton fell asleep.
We swung in the dark for a long time--Mother, daughter and grandson, his breath warmed my breast. He sighed in his sleep. Mom and I smiled in the dark and talked softly.
It was a night made of magic. Thin magic. Warm-toast kind of magic. I didn’t know it then, but it was also the future’s I-wish-I-could-go-back-in-time kind of magic. We stayed on the swing long after the stars filled the sky with specks of light and the crickets courted.
We were three generations. Maybe we were watched over by unseen generations, the ones who had gone before and those unborn, waiting to come, maybe one of those unborn was Lord Bumhampton's little sister, Her Excellency of Mousehole. I like to think that’s true. Maybe Lord Bumhampton's future children were there too, there might have been many generations, stretching in the distance on both ends, and the three of us, in the middle, swinging together, held together, by silken family threads, one summer night, so long ago.