I crave quiet. Some people obsess over chocolate or dream about traveling to far off places. I simply long for a few consecutive moments of silence. With twin boys who recently discovered hip-hop and a sports-crazed husband who likes his ESPN turned up LOUD, I rarely experience it. But this is nothing new.
I grew up in Virginia in a two-story, beige brick colonial with maroon shutters. It had a cul-de-sac out front and a bass-filled lake in the back. Our house was surrounded by vibrant azalea bushes, , white and pink dogwoods, various fruit trees, and some grape vines my father liked to tinker with. I guess you could say we lived in a sanctuary. Long ago, our talented neighbor across the street gifted my parents with an oil painting of the house for their anniversary. It now hangs proudly in my living room. That painting perfectly captures the serene, stately beauty of our home on Del Haven Court. But when I look at it, it’s not visual memories that are evoked, but auditory ones.
The tranquil home depicted in the painting was filled to overflowing with two parents, six kids, several German Shepherd dogs (and eventually their brood of miscellaneous mutts), a generous sprinkling of cats (and eventually their brood of surprise litters), and an ever-changing menagerie consisting of netted boxer and snapping turtles, kidnapped lame ducks, hog-nosed snakes, traumatized rabbits that the cats kept depositing on our doorstep, hamsters and gerbils forever spinning their rusty wheels, a pair of extremely foul-tempered peach-faced lovebirds, and one earsplitting, squawking cockatiel named Caesar. Imagine—if you dare—the raging cacophony in which I lived.
Those paneled walls were bursting at the seams with large-family chaos and laughter by the tons, but peace and quiet were impossible to come by. At least for me. Did I mention I had four brothers? I’m talking about the hide-behind-the-shower-curtain-and-jump-out-screaming-the-minute-you-sat-down type of brothers. To this day I panic at the sight of a closed shower curtain. Along with my brothers came their slew of huckleberry friends who hung out all the time in our driveway whooping and hollering as they played basketball; or in our family room yelling at Magic Johnson or Boss Hogg on the TV; or at the kitchen table with us on Pizza Friday Nights; or (gasp) upstairs “sleeping” over and wreaking their noisy brand of havoc until all hours of the night.
I loved my big family and overly active house and indeed I thrived in it. But I’m naturally sensitive to sound and so I suffered in, ahem, silence. By necessity I grew to adapt. I kept a fan on at night for white noise (which I still need today), learned the nooks and crannies where I could escape for a bit of solitude, and eventually went to senior prom with one of those boys who used to make fun of my freckles.
As a child, you could definitely say I had Large-Family-Crazy-House Syndrome; but today I might have been identified with sensory issues, characterized by my heightened sensitivities to loud noises, particulary loud bursts of sound or continuous increased volume. It has to do with the way I processed sound, and still do, but to a lesser extent as I’ve long-since developed coping styles.
As a parent, I have come to learn about sensory disorders and their very real affects on children. Most children undergo a variety of sensory issues while exploring and interacting within their environments. In some cases, however, these concerns continue or escalate and can affect the child's ability to learn or function appropriately. Sensory disorders have many causes and are incorporated within many other medical diagnoses, such as Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Delay. Learning the symptoms of sensory issues can lead to early identification and proper treatment.
Currently, my husband and sons are away in New York visiting the new Yankee Stadium. I opted out of the adventure to give them some male bonding time, and to escape the craziness of a Red Sox/Yankee game in New York. I’ve been writing this article in a completely and utterly silent house; and tomorrow morning I’ll wake up in an equally peaceful environment. I guiltily admit I am enjoying this to the fullest. But I can’t wait to hear the sound of the car turning into the driveway and the three of them clamoring noisily in the front door. If I could, I’d turn that volume up.