DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley and daughter Claire smile at each other

Our Bathroom

Claire and I share a bathroom. It wasn’t always this way, of course. Once upon a time, Claire used the bathroom by her room, the one Shawn and I designated for the kids after we remodeled the house a few years ago. But when Shawn died and my dad moved in, all of the sudden there were four people using the kids’ bathroom and just me using the master bathroom.

“I should share this bathroom with you,” Claire said one day. She had just turned 9. “It can be the girls bathroom. The boys can all use the bathroom in the hallway.”

I wavered a bit, but somehow just a few days later, all of her hair ties and brushes and little bottles of nail polish had migrated to the sink that Shawn used to use. She even decorated her new area with photos and a “daily schedule” which is hilariously cute. (“SCHEDULE” it says at the top, followed by a list that includes “School, Walk Home, Homework, Play, Have Dinner, etc.”) It was better to have her move in with me, really. Having that space sit empty had made me feel….more alone, I guess.

For now, she’s young enough to love sharing a bathroom with me. Since the alternative is sharing with her grandfather and two brothers, I’m pretty sure she’ll be doing makeup next to me when she’s 16.

Anyway, a few nights ago she was taking a shower while I brushed my teeth. “Mom!” she yelled, “there’s a lake in the shower. I think you need to clear the drain out.”

I took a look. Yes, she was right – the drain was clogged.

“Well, when you get out, I’ll snake the drain,” I told her.

“Snake the drain? What do you mean?” she asked, horrified.

I laughed. “A snake is the name of the tool I’m going to use to clean out the clog. It’s probably just a lot of our hair.”

She got out and got dressed. I went and found the drain snake. “You know,” I told her, “until Daddy died, I never knew how to use one of these things. He always did it. But that’s silly – I should have helped him, or at least learned from him. So I’m going to teach you right now.”

She watched me shove the drain snake down into the drain, laughing as I jiggled it around (listen, I just learned how to do this, so my technique is a little, shall we say, unrefined.) I struggled with it just a bit but then I pulled out a huge clump of old hair and other disgustingness. “Gross!” Claire yelled.

“Well, yes, it’s pretty gross,” I said, “but that’s what you have to do to fix the problem. Want to try?”

She nodded. I gave her the tool and coached her through how to use it. I’d learned the same technique from YouTube a few months earlier. (Shawn always claimed he wasn’t naturally handy but he was a good student and you could learn almost anything from YouTube.) “Make sure to jiggle it around,” I told her.

She did, and then she pulled out a clump of hair. “Yuck!” she said.

“But we’re fixing the problem!” I said. “We should be proud of ourselves.”

She smiled. “We did it!” she said. I gave her a little hug.

It was a small life lesson. But hey, you take your wins where you can.

As I cleaned up, I showed her where everything was stored. “Next time you can do it yourself,” I said. She looked at me and smiled.

That night, as I cleaned up the bathroom, I looked over at her sink. It had once held shaving creme and razors and Shawn’s toothbrush. Now it looked like the ribbon section of Target had exploded on it. The point of doing the addition to our house, and adding a master bedroom and bathroom, had been to have an adult space – one that the kids wouldn’t invade. And yet, here I am sharing my “oasis” with a 10-year-old.

It’s not the vision of my life I had a few years ago. But I think if Shawn were here, he’d be glad I wasn’t leaving his space empty.

You know what else? I think he’d be pretty damn proud of his two girls. For learning how to snake the drain. And for learning how to navigate every new space together – even the bathroom.

Bathroom of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley

Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.


  • Melissa

    Kudos to you for handling the problem yourself and for showing Claire how to do it too! I had always relied on my husband to handle things like that and I’m so thankful for YouTube’s help in figuring these things out. I learned how to change the flapper in the toilet tank (which I’ve done twice now); found out what to look for when my AC wouldn’t come on (after trying all suggestions I had to call a HVAC guy because it turns out a mouse had chewed through the electrical lines to the outside unit!); got good advice on how to prune my roses; researched and resolved some issues around my car. It’s been a real boon to women like us. And I think every little new task we try and succeed at makes us that much stronger to handle the bigger stuff.