Growing up in the Clan has scarred me for life in many, many ways.
Reason #1: I consider six kids a small family.
Reason #2: I can’t cook for one unless I’m making a bowl of cereal.
Reason #18: I am highly suspicious of the contents of all smoothies.
Reason #23: I look at some weeds as potential food.
Reason #47: I will say (out loud, in public) “Yup, that smells like cow poop. Pig poop smells different.”
Reason #69: Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit don’t sound right unless Dad is reading them.
Reason #74: Swimming in water I can actually see in is strange.
Reason #81: I’m really bad at being alone.
As in, by myself. In the house without anyone else. Where it is quiet and the only person making noises is myself.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s downright terrifying.
And I would know, because this past week my parents and all my siblings went camping to the North Shore—and left me and one sister to run the house alone. While this isn’t a huge deal (I’m nearly 20, I can survive without my parents for 5 days), there were some pretty big drawbacks to the situation because I realized five minutes after they left the driveway that I don’t like being in the house by myself.
You might think that after years and years of always being around all my siblings and never being able to snatch more than the barest bit of peace and quiet and privacy, having the house all to myself would be a dream come true. And for the most part, it is. But because I’ve spent years and years around all my siblings without any peace, quiet,
sanity, or privacy, the house feels too big and too quiet when I’m there all by myself.
Thank goodness I had M with me. And normally “thank goodness” is not a phrase I would attach to M’s name in any way, shape, or form, so you know this was a special occasion.
The thing is, I’m used to there always being someone making noise, wherever I am in the house or yard. Whether it’s talking, washing dishes, or bouncing off the walls with wooden swords, it’s never actually silent at our house. Even at night, there are enough snorers and sleep-talkers in this house that I never hear the furnace banging or all the peculiar and unique noises the house makes at night unless I wake up for no reason at 2 in the morning. So to suddenly be in the house with just my sister (and sometimes not even her) is very quiet and very strange.
When I’m there alone, I have to turn on some music, put a DVD in, run a sink of water, start the washing machine, or do something else that makes noise. Without Van Morrison or Star Wars providing a more normal level of background volume (turn that knob up to the point where I can hear it wherever I am in the house), I just can’t take it. The quiet is just too quiet.
I’m sure my mom thinks I’m crazy to say that, but in my defense, I’ve never been a mom. And also in my defense, it’s still too quiet, regardless of how crazy she thinks I am.
And going to sleep when no one else is home is pretty terrifying too. This past week I had to turn on a fan or something so I can’t hear all the furnace clunks and pipes banging, because they’re all strange to me. It’s incredibly easy for me to convince myself that all the perfectly innocent nighttime noise of an ordinary house is actually the sound of some burglar sneaking into the bedroom to attack me. Although if they did, they’d trip over the obstacle course of laundry, wooden swords, and toy boxes on the floor. In theory, I’d be safe, but you never know with these imaginary burglars.
Also, there’s the off chance that I’ll actually wake up in the middle of the night because it’s too quiet to sleep. Frankly put, my sister’s deep breathing is no substitute for twelve people snoring. I’m saying deep breathing instead of snoring because we still sleep in the same bedroom and I’d rather not wake up to find her killing me. Better to play it safe.
Here’s another thing about being home by myself: I can’t stand to live in a messy house all by myself. When the whole family is home, I could care less, which is why my desk, bedroom, and closet are habitually disaster areas. But the first thing I did after the van pulled out of the driveway (after I turned on some music) was sweep all the wood floors, vacuum the rugs, wash all the dishes, and fold all the laundry. Not because I’m a neat freak, of course, but because I couldn’t stand to live in everyone else’s mess without having everyone else around to nag about cleaning it up.
Basically, without a scapegoat to blame it on, I really couldn’t see the point of living in a pigsty. However, since M was staying at home with me, my cleanliness stopped short at cleaning up the girls’ room because I could always pester her about doing that. See how this works?
I would also like to add that although being in the house alone makes me anxious, I didn’t decide to invite friends over to solve that problem. After all, I just got all the people out of the house. Why in the world would I want to bring some more in? I’ll take the occasional panic attack over disruption of five days of solitude.
And before you ask, even though I can’t cook for less than a dozen people, I was also not forced to go to town for every meal. Not only am I too cheap to spend $100 feeding myself for a week if there are any other alternatives (including eating the same meal for week if necessary), but there were two whole watermelons in the house to eat.
If I have to sleep in the bathtub because I ate a whole watermelon for supper, I will still consider it a decent trade-off.
But staying at home by myself wasn’t all being terrified of the empty house, cleaning, or eating watermelon. While there were some drawbacks (and I was definitely experiencing family withdrawals by the time they got back), there were some unexpected benefits as well.
For instance, I had the Internet to myself for once in my life. Mom often claims that we don’t have wi-fi at our house, and she’s partly right. Between all our personal laptops and smartphones, our poor Internet constantly has more than a dozen devices trying to connect to it. We practically have to make appointments to use the Internet at our house, so you can imagine how much I enjoyed having it all to myself.
Another bonus was that the only person leaving the door open to let in flies was me. And since I didn’t leave the door open, I only had to swat a half dozen before the house was pretty much fly-free. I gotta tell you, that was really nice.
Still, all things considered, I’d say this week of “adulting” by myself provided ample proof that my family has scarred me for life in yet another way. I suppose when I eventually move out I’ll be able to artificially generate the level of background racket I need to operate (sorry, future neighbors), but it’s definitely a lot easier to just have the rest of my family around to do it for me.