Only the lonely.

There was always a little bit of death on the pages of the books I read.

I think I wanted to nudge my toe against the thought, quickly jostling it with my foot and then bringing my foot back to safety.

What would it be like to die? What would it be like if those I loved died first?

//

Being an only child is not terrible.

One day, later on in life when I’m an adult and have a child of my own, a woman in one of our homeschooling groups will ask with a slight strain in her voice, “But my daughter’s an only child. Do you think she’ll be okay?”

I’ll try not to laugh. I’m not being cruel. I just think this lady is giving me far more credit than I’ve ever given myself.

Who on earth is ever okay?

We live in a fallen state of Eden—the beautiful world God created, doing an about-face to our own sense of evil.

I’ll tell her, “I was an only child and turned out relatively unscathed.” Then I’ll whisper softly about hearing the voices again and slowly back out of the room.

Kidding.

//

I think being an only child was beautifully lonely in a way that a lot of people will never have the chance to understand. I learned what being quiet meant. I learned what listening was.

I never opened my mouth to cut off someone else to get a word in edge-wise or thought what I had to say was more important.

And that’s only because I respected the integrity of allowing a moment to be free of my noise.

We don’t all always get that memo.

I sure wouldn’t have it weren’t for the reality of my circumstances: when I was alone in my room, there was no one there to hear me.

//

I had friends regardless of my lonely “only” status. Sometimes, friends who were only children themselves.

But more than friends, I had books.

Books were like friends but ones who sought you more than you sought them. They wanted to learn more about that quiet side of you—not to call it out as regrettable but to nurture it because here you are, a soul alone willing to know all of their pages.

I cried when Leslie Burke died and spent an entire evening looking for mixed-up files in a museum. I met an old wise man, The Giver they called him, and stared at the face of God with Margaret who kept asking if He was even there. I looked eagerly for the face on the milk carton and babysat so many kids, my kid kit contained nothing but crumbs and broken Crayons.

I grew and got older and met Sylvia the poet and her good friend, Anne, and made best friends with my own bleak existence in the company of Beckett, Kafka, and Camus.

I baked bread with the yeast of my yearning.

//

I eventually have an only child too. She’s so uninhibited, it feels like she’s twenty children in one.

At three, she talks to Jesus in her room, disturbing the hem of my atheism. I chalk it up to fairy tales. I blame it on her poor listening skills.

Doesn’t she know she’s supposed to honor the quiet with the weight of her silence?

But something is brought back as I watch her standing there at the edge of her doorframe.

Didn’t I always feel never alone, even at my loneliest?

Who else was there to listen to all the words I wished I could say?

//

The moment is long gone when the lady is fretting over her daughter, the one sentenced to a sibling-free life.

I think of what I’d say to her now, now that I know how the moments we let water our worry turn out to be nothing more than drops in the sea of time.

“Fine. She’ll be just fine,” I’d say, allowing no other option.


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