in a little red reading tub

Once upon a time, before I associated bathtubs with gin, I associated them with books.

It was first grade. My classmates and I arrived one morning to find, in the middle of the classroom, a claw foot bathtub, cherry-red on the outside and white on the inside, filled with pillows. It was a secondhand tub our teacher, Mrs. F, had found at a yard sale and restored for our use during silent reading time. It became my favorite place in the room to relax with a book, and it is so seared into the nostalgia center of my brain that a few months ago I wrote a mention of a similar reading tub into my novel. To this day I love claw-foot anything, and I dream of someday owning a similar tub.

Ok, so, yes, at this point it seems like I’m I woman with a weird bathtub obsession. But it’s not just that. My earliest creative writing memories stem from that same classroom, which Mrs. F turned into a miniature publishing house. Throughout the year, my classmates and I composed short stories. We rough drafted on cream-colored sheets of recycled primary paper, the kind with the alternating dotted and full lines to help teach cursive handwriting. Then we sat in very official one-on-one editorial meetings with Mrs. F to talk over our work and receive copy edits. Second draft complete, we received a booklet – a stack of half-sheets of printer paper folded and stapled in the middle – in which Mrs. F had neatly transcribed our story page by page, ready for illustration. Everyone’s written and illustrated booklets were kept in a basket in the classroom for the school year, so we could enjoy each others’ stories in the little red reading tub.

I remember writing one story in particular about our class guinea pig Patches, a boisterous little animal with one ear cauliflowered from some kind of pig-on-pig scrape-up. I won a school writing award for that little ditty of a tale, and I was so proud. Mrs. F ignited the writing fire in me, the desire to imagine a story and see it published for others to read. She showed me I might have some small kernel of skill for it.

Guys, teachers are amazing!

This post is a bit of a tribute: I was sad to learn that Mrs. F passed away earlier this year. But she couldn’t have made more of an impact on my life. She was warm and quirky, full of wit and whimsy, my first editor and publisher, my Mrs. Frizzle of creative writing.

And a woman with impeccable taste in magic reading tubs.

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