For so long, I had listened to the clang of the alarm clocks waking up the children, the limped thump of our son walking stiffly to the bathroom, the feminine growls of his older sister as she demanded her time in that same room.
Suddenly, these morning sounds ceased. Daughter was in Florence for her junior year abroad. Son began his first year at a university thousands of miles away, and I was, once again, childless.
The quiet was surprising.
I had forgotten the time, over 20 years ago, when the only sound was of my breathing, my own steps to the refrigerator or radio, my sighs as I thought out loud, the tick tock of the clock. Once the first child arrived, silence was unimagined.
I never missed the lack of noise, though. Beauty was the baby’s laugh, the tottler’s scream of delight, the sick child’s feverish moan, the teenager’s cry of a friend’s abandonment, the whelp of joy when a college invitation arrived.
I loved the excited conversations after school over chocolate chip cookies, and the sleepy sentences exchanged early in the morning in the car on the way to school. Dinnertime was never a quiet affair. As the man-of-the-house expanded on his notion of “charm school” and the merits of not talking with food in your mouth and keeping your elbows off the table, the four of us discussed, loudly at times, the politics of the week, the latest football scores, and why 10th graders weren’t allowed to go to unsupervised parties.
But then, a cloud of silence descended upon our household. I could hear myself think again. I heard the wind against the walls, and the old refrigerator’s hum of discontent. The leaves of the eucalyptus tree blew loudly outside my bedroom doors, and the foghorns moaned early every morning. The doves cooed outside the bathroom window, and my footsteps followed my every move.
Silence is not golden, nor is it really possible. The absolute quiet was filled with other sounds, but none were as gratifying as the noise that accompanied the happy home when it was filled with a growing family.
we got a puppy.