This is an essay I wrote ten years ago.
I never considered myself a lonely person. As a twin, I had company from the very moment of my conception. I had a built-in sister and best friend for almost thirty years and it was great, something I took for granted then and miss terribly now.
As second oldest of the six, four sisters and two brothers, I never had my own room growing up. It wasn’t until C.J., the first son, was born that my stepfather renovated the attic to make space for our growing family. And we girls entered a world of low slopping ceilings and ungodly heat. Summer or winter, it didn’t matter; it was always hot up there.
Bathroom time, closet space, and storage areas were limited commodities. Beds and dressers dominated our floor plan leaving little room for personal mementos and bric-a-brac. This helped reduce unnecessary clutter.
Fitting eight people around the dinner table was quite the undertaking. Not much elbow room, believe me. But if you thought it would be difficult fitting eight people around the table during regular meals, image how cramped we were during Thanksgiving when our stepsisters, Marcy and Sarah visited. Or when we had guests over, which wasn’t often.
All in all, there was a complete lack of personal space. I desperately longed for some peace and quite, some small space to call my own… my own room, my own apartment, my own LIFE.
I got my wish when, at nineteen, I moved into my first apartment with Heidi. It was a one-bedroom basement-level apartment. In hindsight, the place was a dump. But the rooms were large and even though we shared a bedroom, it almost felt like having my own.
I spent that first day at home making sure we had gotten everything out of our room and hadn’t had time to adjust to, or spend any real time in, our new home. After the sun set and Mom went home, we were finally alone, really alone. All of that unusual freedom and empty space proved difficult to deal with.
The first night in our new place I was overcome by homesickness. All of the rooms suddenly seemed TOO large. With only our beds and dressers, a television, and an entertainment cabinet to our name, the apartment echoed in a lonesome and disquieting manner. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it, but I started crying. I wanted to go home. But that was exactly where we were, home – a home of our own.
Living alone proved to be very lonely indeed. To pay the rising cost of rent, utilities, and mounting consumer debt, I started working two jobs and spent all my time either working or drawing in my various sketchbooks to kill time between one job and the other. I never had – or made time – for friends or acquaintances. I convinced myself that I wasn’t lonely. In fact, I hated being around people because inevitably they tick me off.
On many days off, when the silence of the apartment depressed me and the emptiness couldn’t be filled by the meaningless noise of either the television or the radio, I wished I were working. It just wasn’t the same as hearing real people talking to and with ME.
Now, over ten years later, the wheel has come full circle. While we were in our second apartment, my mother finally divorced our stepfather. With three children still at home, the oldest being thirteen, the youngest barely five, she had no choice but to call us back.
And home we went.
We did not go happily, but grudgingly, with resignation. Our sense of family obligation made us go. And it was family loyalty and duty that keeps me here long after Heidi fled and married. Some part of me knew that although our mother needed us in her time of personal and financial crisis, I needed my family.
C.J is out on his own, the troubled and willful teenager now an equally troubled and willful adult. Chris and Shirley are thirteen and twelve respectively. They have their own lives and their own friends. I can respect that, but I sometimes find myself feeling rather jealous at times, especially on family oriented holidays.
Chris went to see a movie with Cliff and Heidi, and Mom and Shirley went to Bonny and Bob’s (they are like the kids’ surrogate grandparents. All of their natural grandparents died long before they were born and Bonny and Bob treat them just like family, probably because they have no grandchildren of their own. See, it works out nicely for everyone, doesn’t it?). Jen and her family are out spending their Fourth of July doing who knows what, and I haven’t talked –or even seen– Marcy, Sarah, and C.J., in forever.
I am once again alone. In the silence created by everyone’s absence, I feel more lonely than free.
I miss those long ago days when the house was filled near to bursting. Back then, I was practically guaranteed to find someone willing to talk, play, or fight with me. When tempers flared, we professed undying hatred, but we never meant it, no more than Chris and Shirley do when they argue, fuss, and fight.
I want to tell them, these youngest of all of the kids, to put aside their petty differences and to really, truly appreciate each other and the time they spend together. Because time has a way of marching on and someday they may look back with a certain empty sense of longing to a bygone era where they were young and had all the time in the world to torment each other.
Perhaps someday they will look back and wish, as I do now, that they could do things differently, that their bonds with their siblings were stronger, that they spend more time together and less apart. Perhaps, someday they’ll look back on it all and think, “I miss that. I miss THEM.”
Or perhaps I’m giving them too much credit.