When my grandfather died, I found that I could visit him by peeking my face into the antique cabinet that holds his books. I’d take the delicate handle between my fingers and slip my face between the rough edges of the door. The smell of old paper, gnarly leather and grandpa. I could hear the rustle that used to travel to my room as he read the morning’s paper, or the way his whisker whooshed against my face as I pecked him on the cheek. Even as he reached the end, those whiskers and that smell stayed.

I find the same poignancy of time with my face buried in a towel. Sometimes I can go back, my hair behind me long and sun bleached as it was at 16. I can hear the splashes from the pool and the sound of the sliding glass door on its old track. The scent of freshly laundered towels is no sweeter to me than that of a damp cast off that has equal parts must and terry to its smell.

The taste of wet towel takes me to first baths and clenching the towel in my mouth to have every finger and bit of arm free to protect my baby. Camping. Wading pool. Pre-date showers and post-event face washing. Hampers full of towels waiting to be washed or folded make me smile. An easy task of stuffing or folding and a promise of a fresh start ahead.

Last night, unprompted by play or sunscreen I offered Briar a bath without sisters. She looked confused and then delighted. We ran it high and thick with bubbles. She stretched her body as far as it would go and then turned around to do it again the other way. She chirped and flipped and generally delighted in the newness of being the only one again. By the time Finley toddled up the stairs she was ready for the company, Ave soon followed suit. I smiled and giggled as I toweled away bubbles and splashes.

Later as they emerged I felt a lump as I watched, despite a full stack at their disposal, as they shared one towel. It was huge on Fin, reminding me how small she still is, it trailed behind Ave as she carried it more as prop than tool, and then my Briar. She stood, all angles and rosiness, peeking from the duck themed towel. Her hair draped over her shoulder and in one eye as she shucked the towel and ran for her room.

I looked at the towel hungrily, steeped as it was in the this night of firsts and lasts. The water and suds will rinse away, but this night, this now and soon-to-be-then, will stay.