Lucy Sleeping

My washing machine is loud.

I think, maybe, she’s grown louder over the years as she turns and chugs and does her thankless job. Perhaps she’s complaining a bit about the endless work of cleaning stains, of rinsing detergent.

I’ve gotten louder, too, as I’ve aged. I huff and puff when I walk, my ankles creak and moan, and there’s the snoring.

But also, our house is quieter. It’s easier to hear my washing machine in the absence of all the kid noise.

Every school day, my kids are up and out early in the morning. One drives himself to school; I drive the other three. Then I come home to work, and it’s just me and two aging dogs. They’re quieter, too, unless there’s a squirrel or an unsuspecting neighbor in their sight. Mostly, they sleep at my feet, sighing and snorting and passing a little old woman gas.

The click of my keyboard has amplified as well. It’s a resounding chorus in my empty office. Click, click, click. I like the sound. It soothes and comforts. But it’s definitely louder than it has ever been.

Even when my kids are home, they’re often out of sight. They no longer pull on my shirt or sit at my feet or ask me to read them a story. Instead, they finish homework in their bedrooms, they text their friends, they complete one activity and move to the next.

“Mom, can you drive me to the library?”

“Mom, I have play practice tonight.”

“Mom, I forgot that I have to stay after school for orchestra today.”

“Mom, I’m going to Sophie’s house.”

They ask, they tell, and then they’re gone.

George breaks the silence in the afternoons with the lovely wail of his violin, the deep, resonant sounds of his woodwinds. Occasionally, I’ll hear the TV in the family room. Sometimes, if I listen carefully, I get to experience Mary Claire and her ukulele.

But more often than not, this house rests comfortably in quiet. It’s not a bad quiet, just a new quiet. It’s the inevitable silence of kids growing up and claiming their own lives.

I have always been a quiet-filler. Chris often references the Alanis Morissette lyric that he believes was written just for me: “Why are you so petrified of silence? Here, can you handle this… ?”

Can I handle it? Do I have a choice?

I am not filling these silences with anything more than a clicking keyboard and the whir of a washing machine.

There is no proper substitute for the quiet my growing children leave in their wake.

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6 Responses

  1. “There is no proper substitute for the quiet my growing children leave in their wake.”

    Just wow. You are so good at making me feel like I am right beside you in that silence and feeling this bittersweet pain. Thank you for sharing your incredible way with words.

    My 11 year old has adopted this very strange voice/language that she uses to speak to Banjo the cat. It has spread into other areas of our life now. It is slightly annoying at times and when I saw Scott about to lose it with the incessant “Furry” talk, I said, “In a year, she won’t be doing it. You will miss it.”

    I can almost hear the silence already and it is not welcome.

  2. I’m going through that as well. The noise these days is my little space heater keeping me warm as I sit at the computer working:) Our lives are changing girlfriend. I’m excited for them, petrified for them, anxious for them and overwhelmed for them. But mostly I am proud of them and the individuals they are becoming. Raising good humane humans is my job–sometimes I suck at it, but overall they are going to be fine–at least that is what I tell myself when I’m having a particularly bad day. This too shall pass is my mantra.

  3. This isn’t about children and family noise. Music is a big part of my life and when I’m at home the radio is almost always on, or a CD is in the player (no i-devices). The Man In My Life lives off the grid in a very basic (some might say primitive) way and finds the car radio annoying, so when we’re in the car the radio is usually off. But in my house … we came in last night and I turned on the radio without a second thought, and he said “You’re really not used to quiet, are you?” And I allowed that was true. But I told him that at his house I missed certain music programs. So we’re developing some compromises, and after supper he said “Isn’t it time for that traditional music program of yours?” and we had 3 hours of nice music. And I hadn’t minded the other silences at all.

    My kids are grown up and far away, but he keeps me examining my life.

  4. As I am reading this my teens are in their room doing teen things, my doggies are at their feet and I can actually hear the air conditioner. I completely understand.

  5. Oh your words always move me. Thank you. I read a great line by Roald Dahl the other day in ‘Danny Champion of The World’ – my kids aren’t at teen stage yet – and it was ‘even the silence was listening to the silence’. That’s what the quiet in your house sounds like its doing, listening to the quiet until it gets used to it. Thank goodness for old dogs and washing machines.

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