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Silence, a cacophony, and then silence again

My boyhood home spans 2400 square feet if it does an inch.

With a fully furnished basement, a sloping front yard, and a rectangular in-ground pool framed by a brick patio out back, space was never at a premium.

But the field of wheat grass and wildflowers that once bumped up against our backyard has since been developed, aggressively inserting the butt ends of homes encircling a cul-de-sac, pre-fab wooden swing sets and the sound of top 40 radio where there was once great expanse, the sound of cicadas in summer, and winter’s quiet whitewashed stillness.

Grandchildren have developed all around my boyhood home too.

There’s silence, then a cacophony and then silence again.

We are, at the moment, somewhere in the belly of life’s sound cycle.

Seven children in total have sprouted.

They’ve grown limbs that, on days like today, get strewn about the floor which only a hot minute ago was covered only in thick carpet the color of sandstone — not arms, legs, fuzzy black boots, thick charcoal grey sweatshirts, smartphones, and deflated silver juice pouches.

It’s just the two of them now but the square pillows are routinely stashed beneath a hutch beside the kitchen to make more space on the sofa. It’s an insignificant amount of extra real estate granted to asses not arriving to claim the seats, save for today and a few other dates spread unevenly across the calendar.

dog story

The dog is named after a flower and the flower is dying, as flowers and dogs will do in time.

All things eventually return to silence.

She’s at my feet now, behind the sofa with no pillows, out of view of the boots, limbs and litter, but she and the space she takes up on the carpet almost left my boyhood home silent at the most wonderful time of the year.

I shuffle my feet around her two front paws stretched out beyond the potato skin brown nose of her weary face which rests peacefully upon the stuffed sloth squeaker toy my youngest daughter had already given to and unwrapped for her. I look down and smile the kind of smile you force when you know things will be changing soon, the kind of smile that comes with a quiver of bottom lip.

In summer, she would run scattershot to the corners of the rectangular pool, barking frantically when the kids would swim underwater. She couldn’t understand that they were safe; the girl only wanted to see and lick their faces. That’s family.

Now there’s a noticeable limp and barely anything more than a whimper.

Mom calls to me from the kitchen, asking me to relay something about wine choices for dinner to dad but he’s glazed over like a Krispy Kreme left in the case long after the lights go dark in the window — the result of a glass previous full of a hearty Oregon red.

His face is so expressionless that it makes me doubt if I’m saying aloud the words or simply caught in a daydream thinking them to myself. It’s dizzying, comical but not really. I repeat myself but to no affect still.

It’s loud in this room with 7 kids and 7 adults. The children together with the game on the TV build a chorus rendering meaningful conversation nearly impossible. I see my dad seeing me, he looks smaller than I remember, lonely and invisible in this crowd. I know of his loneliness, if not exactly.

This version of loneliness is confusing for its owner as well as for all who surround him. Being lonely like this is to long for company — at least for the idea of having people near. When the house eventually does swell with limbs and voices, when loved ones arrive in force, then it is to be sullen because of the noise and the lack of notice.

“That what you want can become something you need” — Gordi “Can We Work It Out”

All that is wanted and needed then is the kind of silence found in routine and in being left alone.

My boyhood home is only full on a handful of dates spread unevenly across the calendar. It’s on those days that the space on the sandstone carpet and the pillowless sofa becomes sacrosanct.

The house nearly sat silent on the last day it was to be filled. Nearly silent, nearly lonely, but not quite.

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One Comment

  1. Just getting this now.
    Your writing is so, so beautiful!

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