Before you read this story, I just want to let you know that the WordPress blog, Magnificent Nose, is featuring Flash Fiction this week. I have a guest post today, “Poetic Justice?” Hope you’ll check it out, and keep going back. It’s a great blog.
Yesterday I wrote about twins. In that story, I made a very brief reference to my being an only child. Today, I’m thinking about what that means. Can’t speak for everyone else out there without brothers and sisters, but I love my own company. I never feel lonely. I do like being alone. Not all the time. But probably more than many.
And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my being an only child has a lot to do with it. It would make sense.
Because I have no siblings I spent a fair bit of time alone, growing up. Yes, my parents were there. Yes, I always had lots of friends, lots of friends coming over to my house to play, to study, for meals. I always had lots of parties, lots of sleepovers. But eventually they went home, to their own houses; and then it was back to just me and my parents. We had a large, extended family. Lots and lots of cousins (many of whom are very close to my age) and aunts and uncles and grandparents. We were together very, very often. Most weekends, in fact; and often, during the week as well. But eventually we all went home, to our respective houses; and again it was back to me and just my parents.
I spent a lot of time with my parents’ friends, especially the women. I often said I had my own relationships with them. I loved my conversations with them. They never treated me like a child; and I guess because of all the time I spent with adults, I was more sophisticated than the average kid.
My parents were friendly with a couple I adored. They had no children of their own, lived in a spectacular, art-filled apartment downtown (when all their contemporaries lived in the suburbs) and led a very glamourous life, going to nightclubs, the theatre, travelling and dining out. They were friendly with another couple, my parents also knew. They had four children — a boy and three girls; and one of the girls, Linda, is about a month older than I am. And every year, from the time we were about eleven to when we were in our late teens, this couple would take the two of us out for dinner. Just us, no parents.
They’d call and invite us, several weeks in advance. We’d meet at their apartment for nibbles and drinks (non alcoholic for Linda and me in the early years, obviously). And then we’d head off to a fabulous restaurant, for a fabulous dinner. We’d always have fascinating conversations and wonderful food; and by 10:30 or 11:00 pm they’d put us in a taxi. Until the following year.
Those dinners made me feel so grown up, which is why I loved them; and looked forward to them, year after year. Linda loved them for the same reason, but more so because they got her away from her three siblings. It gave her some alone time, away from the crowd.
I’ve never loved crowds. Or noise. Again I think it’s because, compared to coming from a large family, my childhood was the polar opposite of chaotic and loud and frenzied. So I’ve always craved some peace and quiet. My mother told me that when I was a very little girl, maybe two or three — four at the most — and we’d go to visit my grandmother or great grandmother, and lots of family were around, with everyone talking and laughing and shouting and running around at once, I’d sit there blinking and blinking, looking at all the confusion around me as if I was in a totally strange, foreign country. It was unfamiliar to me; and really, I was out of my comfort zone.
In some ways it’s stuck with me, to this day. I love the company of my family and friends. I love being part of their families. I cherish the time we all spend together. But I also cherish the time I get to spend with myself. Day dreaming. Thinking. Working things out, in my head. Reading. Working. Listening to music or watching TV. And, sometimes, doing absolutely nothing.
I love going off alone with my camera. For me photography is only enjoyed as a solitary pursuit. I do go to movies with friends, but probably go to as many by myself. And for all the years I went to TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), with the exception of a few movies here and there, I always went alone. By choice. I got to pick the movies I wanted to see, without making compromises. And I got to talk to more strangers, which I love doing. Which are the same reasons I have no trouble travelling by myself.
And do you know what? I’ve discovered that I’m very good company.