Hot Tub Time Machine

It all began innocently enough. We had a houseful of young kids (okay, three, ages 10-15) back in the year 2000, and we knew if we were to all survive, we needed more room. So, we designed and added a master bedroom suite, separated from the kids as much as was geographically possible, with a private bath. I searched out a corner whirlpool tub, and not one of those builder-specials that makes women go “oooh” when house hunting. No, this one was five feet per side and would easily hold the two of us. It became our private oasis, and the kids knew if the two doors were closed, leave us alone.

That tub watched over our sanity as we escaped jobs, parenting, and life in general to a world of bubbles, candles, red wine, and smooth jazz. We were living the life of royalty, at least from our perspective, and it was just another piece of the puzzle that has ultimately kept us together for these 36 years. Hint to young marrieds: find good quality private time, enjoy it, defend it, make it a priority. You will never forget or regret soaking in a tub of warm water as Calgon takes you away….

Later we discovered cabins in Gatlinburg. Not the noisy, crowded and not-so-private cabins of the new resorts, rather we sought out cabins that were nestled in the woods. Besides the nestling, our criteria demanded a hot tub on the deck, with a view. We always brought a good supply of food and beverages with the intention of not leaving the cabin for as many days as we had paid for. We also tried North Georgia, a delightful place more adult-oriented, and a place where the decks had bear gates. We never had a chance to test that gate (fortunately), but maybe the bears just don’t appreciate hot tubs. My memories are rich with evenings in the hot tub, watching the sun set, enjoying the wine, the music – and the great company of one very special lady. It was as good as it gets.

After my crazy wife decided that a middle-aged reenlistment in the Navy (during a time of war) was just what she needed, I got left alone for long periods of time. Now this, too, is part of our secret for a long and happy marriage – support your spouses hopes and dreams. But the second time she deployed I hatched a scheme to bring those cabin-in-the-woods getaways to right there in our back yard. Back when we first did that master bedroom addition, we had installed French doors to our back yard. Ten years had gone by, and there was still nothing but grass back there, and rickety wooden steps. After an infusion of cash and a lot of time and work (mostly cash – lots of it) I had prepared a place for my true love to come home to, an escape from the world of war and the war of life. The centerpiece was an acrylic masterpiece of hot tub luxury, seven feet square, with enough jets and lights and features to make any lover of a good soak proud. And genius that I am, I built a pavilion for it so that it could be used in any weather, and added privacy screens for, well, um, privacy. I named it the Patio o’ Paradise and was excited to present it to my bride.

She was thrilled with the result, and the handy oasis right outside our bedroom door ended our trips to the mountains in search of peace. We now had an instant escape, a vacation without reservations or planning or travel, a way to end any hard day at work. The hot tub became almost routine and was complete with the requisite wine and smooth jazz and candles. Paradise, indeed.

There are a couple important rules we agreed on early:

1) If it snows, the hot tub is open. We have braved temperatures in the teens (it is a hot tub, after all) and the magic of watching the steam rise off the water while that rare Tennessee snow falls is irresistible.

2) New Years Eve means saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new, from the vantage point of our happy place, the hot tub. Sometimes the kids (now all grown) have questioned our picture posts (get a room!) but we want to share our joy with the world. Alcohol has nothing to do with it, of course.

But we are willing to share and have had the joy of all of our kids, and their spouses, enjoying a soak. If they are home for the holidays, a trip to the hot tub is a prerequisite. For adults, it is a place of peace and contentment, as time fades away and the moment becomes what matters. For the kids, it is just a warm, small pool, a place to splash and, well, be a kid. But there is plenty of room for interpretation of the magic of the hot tub time machine.

Yesterday we got to introduce our grandson Arthur to the magic. All summer he had loved the pool and gotten very comfortable in water. He wasn’t too sure about a giant plastic box full of hot (warm actually, as we keep the temperature down to 98-99 degrees) water. But after showing him how to test the water with a strip, he swished his hand around and decided he might give it a try. Watching a child make new discoveries is always a joy, and Arthur had to try every seat, push every button, cycle through the various lighting effects. And laugh and splash and even dart across the surface. Because he is a kid, and it really is still pool to him, just smaller.

And after Arthur and his parents left, we gathered up our bottle of red wine (a South African Pinotage), our acrylic stemware, the Fire tablet to control the music and sank into the tub, with Bob James and Earl Klugh providing the soundtrack. What was an otherwise normal happy hour led to a new discovery. I had added shades to give us privacy, but as the sun set over the back side of Walden’s Ridge Diana wondered out loud if we could raise the blind to better enjoy the view. It had never occurred to me that we would still be completely private whilst submerged, so up the shade went. We were rewarded with a glorious view that was made complete when first Jupiter and then Saturn became visible. Our ten-year-old tub was offering new experiences and bringing fresh joy – as a hot tub time machine should.

I told Diana last night that if everybody had what we had, life would be better for all. Not just the hot tub or the wine or the music. Not even the view, really. And that is not an elitist statement – most people spend far more on their hobbies than a hot tub would cost. I meant that if more people had the relationship that made soaking in a tub a treasure, time spent talking about whatever it was we talked about (after over three decades we still have something to say to each other), that life for them would be better, and life on this planet would be more enjoyable for all. People need peace and comfort, maybe a little escapism, but mostly warm water to nurture that warm relationship.

We are twenty years into the joys of escaping the daily grind with a soak in a tub of water. We have enjoyed our wet adventure together, and hope to have many more years of embracing the soak. We have made many memories between us, with family, and with friends, that are magic, irreplaceable.

All that from 400 gallons of hot water. All that from our hot tub time machine.

Take me away…

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