Written in 2020, offered here as a gift for Hanukkah 5782
About 4 years ago, I finally had enough money to buy Hanukkah gifts for my daughters and one for myself. I pick a night for a “family gift” and give us all something I wanted for household use. The first year, I bought a set of dishes for the 3 of us, so we could retire the ones we’d sat down with when we were 4 at the table, the ones that made a horrific noise whenever a knife touched their surface. Then there was SodaStream year, so we could make our own fizzy water for every meal and in between, saving me from the expense and empty can clutter of our relationship with La Croix fruit water. And silverware year, when I found used pieces to complete the set I’d asked for as a bride, the set my ex and I never ate with, all curved lines, elegant tines, and comforting weight.
Then came 2020, and I’d done no Hanukkah shopping at all, not in person, not online, not in my Buy Nothing group. I told my girls I’d put $10 each night into their PayPal accounts, and that we’d still observe our tzedakah night, when we give our daily non-chocolate gelt away to the recipient(s) of our choice. And that was the best I could do, just good enough, which is my high bar for this year. Good enough.
Then the second surge started, and brought empty grocery shelves with the heartbreaking daily totals of case counts and deaths. I checked our toilet paper closet and counted the rolls out to be sure we’d make it to our next delivery (Who Gives a Crap, tree-free TP that raises money for sanitation programs around the world, because of course). And I remembered early on in the pandemic, when I tried to buy a bidet and couldn’t because they were all sold out, just like bread flour and yeast and rubbing alcohol. Maybe, maybe bidets were back in stock? And wouldn’t that be a perfect 2020 family night Hanukkah gift?
Yes. I found one online, I ordered it, and it arrived in time for night #7. I didn’t gift wrap it, I handed over the shipping box marked “Tushy,” and said “Be warned, I think this is a gift that I’m going to enjoy much more than you.
“WAIT. TUSHY? Did you get us a BIDET?” said Ava, “this is actually a good present.”
We’ve been eating late for months now, ever since we locked down back in March. My girls take a couple of hours after Zoom school and chores to disappear into their rooms, to get as close to a teenage life as possible when you’re locked in a house with your mother for months on end. I make dinner, I catch up on family calls and texts, and somehow it’s 9 pm and we’re sitting on the couch to eat while we watch Criminal Minds (Bones is too disgusting for food time, we’ve decided, but we crave the clarity of crime shows - people do monstrous things, they get caught, sometimes victims are survivors, there is some justice).
For Hanukkah, we have the added glow of the candles and the flows and swirls of wax collecting on the table with our peacock plates and curvy forks. We’ve been out of SodaStream gas for months, so there’s no fizzy water. On Bidet Night, we finished dinner even later than usual and cleaned up and got ready for bed, and I decided that I’d install the Tushy right away, because time has lost all meaning.
So at 11 pm, I found myself hollering for a pot to catch the water leaking from the pipe, then hollering again for extra towels when the pot didn’t quite work out, and then, voila, it was installed and ready for use. Ava volunteered to go first, then I got a turn. Mira wisely hid in her room while we were working out the details.
The water was shockingly cold and forceful, or refreshing and effective, depending on your perspective, but the seat needed a bit of adjustment for the spray of water to be in just the right spots for our household of vulvas. Which is how I found myself kneeling in front of our toilet at midnight on the 7th night of Hanukkah, wearing my latke-spattered apron, fine tuning our new bidet. Ava was standing by the sink, advising. I got everything bolted down in the proper alignment.
And I can’t explain what happened next except to say that I have always been an experiential learner. When I was a middle school volunteer naturalist at the Seattle Aquarium, I got my head stuck in our shark lecture prop jaw, proving to the attending tourists that you could go into a shark’s mouth easily, and then the angle of the rows of teeth would keep you there. So I have a track record of doing things that aren’t necessarily smart, in the spirit of scientific exploration. That’s how I like to think of my impulses, anyway.
So as I was kneeling in front of the toilet and our new bidet at 12:13 am, I looked at the control dial and I reached out, before any conscious thought took hold, and I cranked that dial to check the position of the spray nozzle. And a jet of clean, cold water shot out and hit my right breast, full force. And my apron deflected the spray and sent it straight up into my face. And Ava watched the whole thing in delight.
"DO IT AGAIN, OH MY GOD PLEASE DO IT AGAIN" - this was Ava's prayer, a prayer of the heart, a true plea to the heavens for another act of such stunning apparent stupidity that it could only be divinely inspired.
She jackknifed over, laughing so hard she lost her breath. I rocked back and forth, laughing so hard I would have peed my pants except that I’d just recently tried the new bidet and so at least I was spared that. We laugh-cried for so hard and so long, one of those enchanted circular, never-ending laughs that starts to ebb but then one of you remembers what happened and says a single word, such as “again!” or “water!” or “face!” and then you both collapse again, completely powerless in the presence of such a wonderful gift.
This was the first unburdened laughter I’ve experienced all year, since this pandemic started. It has been a long and heavy year, and while we’ve had some good times together, everything, everything is under the shadow of this global suffering. Our bidet and my base primate impulse to experiment brought us a tiny window, a little eye in the storm, a moment of shared joy and simple presence. There was nothing else we could do, we had to laugh. We were compelled, not in control, not in our minds, just delighted by the absurdity and physical comedy of it all. Because it’s 2020, this gift came with a shower of toilet water and because it’s 2020, it’s a gift I accepted with deep gratitude. This bidet is just exactly what we needed.