Celebrate Me Home

I moved out of my parent’s house when I was twenty-two years old, leaving the somewhat secluded area of the Hudson Valley that I spent most of my childhood in. Western Connecticut was where I landed, with my first job and my first apartment. Obviously, I had never lived alone before or really had ever been alone. I grew up in a house of eight, four brothers, two parents, a dog and me. Our house was never quiet, even at night there were sounds of somebody getting up to go the bathroom or the hum of a television turned down low. So when I moved and out on my own and entered my apartment to silence, it alarmed me.

So happy together!

Where was my youngest brother who would burst into my room fifty times a day to tell me something stupid? Or my father’s heavy footsteps on the stairs? Or my mother’s voice not so gently reminding somebody to hang up their coats when they took them off? For me the silence was disconcerting, even a little scary. It made me wonder if I had made the right decision to leave my family.

I did, eventually I came to enjoy the silence even love it. When my job changed from teaching older kids to more rambunctious younger ones, I was grateful to come home to a quiet house even more. My apartment was my sanctuary, the place where I could write without distractions or interruptions. I would go home (to me my parent’s house will always be home) and I would hear all the noise my family made. My brother Jonathan sings loudly and off-key. My brother Jordan tells the dumbest jokes. Even the dog was noisy when playing tug of war with my father. And my mother… well she just says things that all mothers say. After a few hours with them I would retreat, drive an hour home despite my parent’s protest to stay the night.

As I’ve gotten older my trips home became less and less, until I would sometimes go a month without seeing my family. I felt guilty, but isn’t that apart of growing up. I would loath family vacations because I had to be stuck with a bunch of noisy juvenile boys, forced to do family bonding activities. One year, despite my mother’s protests I decided not to spend spring break with them. I wrote instead, a lot. I read. I went out to dinner and to trivia night. I got a pedicure and a massage. I felt like a grown up.

Then the black out came. Stupid snow, knocked down hundreds of trees leaving most of my town without power. Fortunately my parents didn’t lose power and after 24 hours of freezing I left my place. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to leave my quiet, my bed, my space, my things, to go back to my noisy family home where I no longer had a bedroom. But the prospect of spending numerous days without heat, light or internet sent me packing.

RIP Autumn

But when I got home things were different. Our beloved childhood dog had passed away. No longer did I hear her nails scrapping against the hardwood floors. My father works the evening shift, one brother is in nursing school, the other is a shift manager at a local restaurant and when he’s not there he’s with his girlfriend. My mother works two jobs, takes night classes and goes to the gym religiously. And my youngest brother, now 17, has found the joy of sleeping from the time he gets home from school till his belly wakes him up three or four hours later.

What happened to my family? What happened to the noisy dinners and the lewd teenage boy jokes? Even the dog was gone! It made me a little sad. It also made me realize that while I was so busy being a grownup my family was growing up, changing, maybe even growing apart. It made me nostalgic for the days when we used to sit around the kitchen table playing cards and the arguments that would break out over the obvious cheating. It made me long for the days when I would plead with my mother, “Tell Jonathan to stop talking to me!”

Coming from a big family, I like to write about families. So often I see writers who just don’t get the dynamics right, they don’t make the interactions real enough. If you’re going to write about a family you really need to think about your own family. Every flaw, every good memory, every bad one, even the skeletons you might not want let out. It’s okay to steal from your own life, because if the emotion is real for you it will be real for your readers.

So go on, call that sister that gets on your nerves every time you speak to her. Plan that big Thanksgiving meal, invite those family members who don’t even bother to bring dessert. Hash out all that resentment you feel towards your mother. Call it reasearch! Call it love.

Ps. My youngest brother is still quite annoying when sufficiently feed and rested.

Your turn. What’s your family situation like? Big family? Small family? No family? Love/hate to be alone? Ever avoid your family? Miss them? Any and all comments are welcome.

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12 thoughts on “Celebrate Me Home”

  1. Hi Jamie,
    I have lived alone for many, many years. I enjoy the quiet of it. I have 2 cute pugs and one cat with an attitude (what cat doesn’t have attitude). I am an only child so I never had a household as you described. it was Mom, Dad, me and the dog. I have an adult son, who is newly married. I see my son and his wife frequently. Although I was an only child, I came from a large Italian family with lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. I do know what it’s like to be surrounded by the noise factor. As for the holidays, we have our traditions and keep to them even though our family is small right now. I know the newly weds want to start a family, so hopefully next year we will have a new little face at the table on Thanksgiving.

  2. Great post Jaimie. Two days in a row, you ladies have brought me to tears! Maybe that’s just me getting nastalgic and feeling grateful for all my blessings. I am the youngest of seven. I grew up in a four bedroom, one bathroom cape and chaos was rampant. After raising boys (noise, rowdiness and crude jokes included) I now live in the quiet Berkshire hills with my husband and dog–in heavenly bliss!

    I had my nine year-old nieces this weekend and boy are they active…and noisy…and soooo sweet! I forgot that i missed the chaos of kids. it was also realy cute to watch my husband spoil them. He never had daughters so it was interesting to see the interaction. Of course they love their Uncle Addy–who wouldn’t when he made them chocolate chip cookies and played the Wii with them. We went on some nature hikes, gave them rides on the quad and said prayers before bed.

    There are some things that the quiet just can’t give you.

    1. I’m glad you were touched by my post. I felt a little sad when I was writing it. Growing up in a big family is an experience I’m glad I had.

  3. Jamie, your story is great. I smiled the whole time while reading your descriptions of Mom and Dad and the rest of the gang. Your going home surprised me too, just like it did you. I guess we never think of our family changing. Returning home is never quite the same I suppose. So you made an amazing discovery, although circumstances change, love never does.

  4. I lived alone for 2 glorious years. I could do anything or nothing…it was great. I would get up on a Sat am, throw on some pants and got to the movies and see whatever was playing. I could sleep all day. Ahhh. Now, I rarely have time to myself – really my self where nobody else needs me for anything. I’d love a week all alone…but of course, I’d love a week with just my hubby too, and then I’d miss the kids and need time with them…and the next thing you know, it’s back to reality. I guess I’ll have plenty of time to myself when the kids are grown. People say the time passes faster than it seems at the moment. Darned potty training!

  5. I also come from a large family. 2 parents, 5 sisters and always a dog. I love and hate the quiet. Ill admit, I spent exactly one month home after college graduation and then bam, I got my own place. The first few days were terrifying but then I grew to love it. I l-o-v-e having time to read and not get interrupted. Love it. When I lived alone, it was so pleasant. I will agree I missed having someone to talk to or cook and eat dinner with, so I would call my mom a few times a week to catch up. Then I got invaded. First one sister and then another moved in with me because I had the room and they ended up near me because of school and then a job. There went my quiet. I work 10 hour days and when I am home, I am never alone. At least it feels that way. So now I have a comfortable mix, my sister moved out and now the one who is left is not allllllways here, a lot of the time, yes, but I do get time to myself. We went home to our parents house this weekend and it was just the 2 of us, our parents and daisy – our dog. She’s more crazy than I remember but that could also be because I have a *leave me alone* cat. It’s just being home. I own my own condo in CT and it’s home, but it feels a little different in MA. My mom and dad are there. It could be that I’m 26 and not married or have kids, but that feels like home too. Thanksgiving is coming and that’s a big holiday for my family and we always cook up a storm. We’ve always told our mom that no matter what, thanksgiving is ALWAYS going to be at her house. Anyway, I agree, my family is very close, we grew up in the middle of nowhere together so were more friends than enemies but family is always there and I think that’s pretty awesome.

    1. Hey Stephanie, thanks for visiting… I kinda feel like when I have a family and kids of my own that place will feel like home.

  6. I have a large, Italian extended family, so I have lots of cousins, uncles, aunts. My immediate family is my mother, brother and a bunch of friends (who are really family too). I remember a lot of noisy family gatherings as a kid and I do miss those days. I wish I could talk to my older relatives (like my grandmother) who are gone now. But I feel lucky we had the time that was granted to us. I hope to, one of these days, write the book about my family that’s been inside me for so long. Awesome post Sugar!

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