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Coming of Age Kids

I used to be a night owl. I’d stay up reading under my covers with the contraband flashlight my godmother bought me. I would wait for my parents to go to sleep, I’d slip into the living room and put on my favourite record at the time, a weathered copy of Hooked on Classics, and I’d snuggle back into my bed with one of my favourite OZ books (there are fourteen from the original series, most folks don’t know that). My favourite was one about a boy who’s island was attacked and he was left alone with a talking goat, the ridiculous king who rode the goat, and three magic pearls that gave him strange powers. The quiet hours of night were when I could actually think. My younger brother wouldn’t be following me around. My parents couldn’t give me any tasks. My homework was done. No one needed me. These were my hours. I would stay up until dawn, grab myself a bowl of cereal and then sleep for a couple of hours before having to catch the bus for school. I still sometimes miss those hours to myself now that I have my own children, a partner, a dog and a plate full of things to do.

I was an eldest child. Raised by two eldest children who liked their quiet too. My first husband was an eldest child, and father to our own eldest child. My second spouse; eldest child. We all have a predilection for quiet.

I think there is something about being the eldest that makes you crave the quiet times from the beginning of your life. Maybe I’m generalizing (I am) but it tracks I my family where there is only one youngest child, and he loves company. He isn’t a big fan of being left alone. We are all sort of tasked with entertaining him until he falls asleep.

When I had my second child, for a long time I thought that maybe I’d ruined my eldest’s life. He went to school, he had friends, he played, and he read. He learned to do so many things on his own because I was raising another human. I’m ridiculously grateful for the time we got before my youngest arrived. Nearly three years of solid foundation. Three years of reading, drawing quietly, gardening and naming things in the world. By the time he was two and a half he could read short sentences, and express his love of art succinctly aloud. He could pronounce Giganatosaurus with no tongue fumbling. He was social before our second was born. Because he could choose when he wanted to interact. Once you have a younger sibling, that choice is removed, and the only solitude you get is the kind you demand with closed doors, and serious boundaries.

Maybe it isn’t surprising that my eldest child is also a night owl. His need for quiet supersedes even my own.

I found myself loving the gregarious and energetic life my youngest brought with him. It was as if I was getting a second chance to be kind, because I know that I had not been with my younger brother. Years went by. I focused on the child who demanded my time, and gave space to the child who did not. I played outside, my eldest climbing the monkey bars with other children, my youngest and I ensconced in some imaginary world full of characters and stories. My youngest was always asking me to tell stories, to read to him. My eldest stopped wanting me to read to him when he was six. He could read on his own. He didn’t want a bedtime routine, he wanted to set him own schedule. My youngest loved the end of the day wind down where we recalled all the things that happened during the day.

My eldest and I very rarely see each other. I am tasked with being a day person with responsibilities and getting my youngest to school, and working.

My eldest bonded with his father, something that I did when I was a child too. My mother newly taken with my younger brother, it opened time up to spend with my Dad. I was grateful for the relationship my eldest and his dad shared. Oddly enough, I stopped letting my mother read ti me when I was six. I stopped hugging her too, until I turned 18. I thought by recreating my family structure on my own that I could fix what had went wrong between my mother and I. That I could figure out a new way to make things work.

I miss him. My eldest is a creative, sensitive, hilarious human, who loves art and music and movies. Before I leave for the day, and he goes to sleep, I try to catch him in the kitchen where he makes his cereal. I tell him I love him. He responds in kind.

When missing him gets overwhelming, I write him letters. I have a box full of moments I’ve observed, and art he’s made, and memories I want him to know are important to me. I intend to give it to him when he leaves home, so he knows the entire time we shared our lives, I loved him, and was rooting for him.

I remember one time, when I could hear him making some sort of food downstairs at around 3am, I thought I’d go down and chat with him, because he must be lonely, right. Never seeing people? Having a schedule opposite of the rest of the world. I went down, and asked if he wanted me to make him something to eat. He seemed surprised but happy to being eating something because he normal night time fare. I whipped up a full steak dinner. It took me about half an hour, and I left the quiet between us as assurance that I wasn’t there to intrude.

I put the dinner down in front of him. He looked at me, said a very genuine thank you, I love you, I appreciate you, and then lifted the plate to take it to him room.

”You don’t want company while you eat?” I asked. He seemed genuinely surprised.

“Oh, you wanted to hang out?” He responded.

“Not necessarily,” I said. “I just thought…maybe you were lonely. At night. All alone.”

”I’m not.” He said. “I like the quiet.”

You and me both. You and me both. I’d forgotten how much I missed the quiet of being alone.

He went upstairs to be with his quiet, and I sat downstairs for another hour reconnecting with mine. Neither of us lonely. Quiet, together.

November 11, 2023 16:33

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5 comments

Sarah Martyn
18:39 Nov 21, 2023

Poetic ending. Pleasant read! Down to earth.

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Wake Lloire
22:42 Dec 01, 2023

Thank you so much! I love writing slice of life pieces.

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Eileen Turner
20:29 Nov 18, 2023

Yeah, those little typos are hard to spot because we know what we meant to say. Although I enjoy companionship, I need and appreciate alone time; I always did. But now, retired, with my son states away, as much as I like some solitude, the need for companionship grows exponentially each year. Does it sound strange that for folks like us, the best together time is in comfortable silence? Your characters seemed to understand that.

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Wake Lloire
22:43 Dec 01, 2023

I love that you saw through the typos, and that you understand the spending time quietly together. Thank you for taking the time to read, and all to share your connection with the story. I so appreciate it!

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Wake Lloire
16:25 Nov 18, 2023

I just wanted to note that I edited this story, twice, and yet reading it today I still found glaring mistakes. I am aware of them, and wish I’d let someone else look at this before I sent it to the contest. So if you’re keen on making copy-editing notes, please don’t, I’ve already caught them. 💖

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