My washing machine is loud.
I think, maybe, she’s grown louder over the years as she turns and chugs and does her thankless job. Perhaps she’s complaining a bit about the endless work of cleaning stains, of rinsing detergent.
I’ve gotten louder, too, as I’ve aged. I huff and puff when I walk, my ankles creak and moan, and there’s the snoring.
But also, our house is quieter. It’s easier to hear my washing machine in the absence of all the kid noise.
Every school day, my kids are up and out early in the morning. One drives himself to school; I drive the other three. Then I come home to work, and it’s just me and two aging dogs. They’re quieter, too, unless there’s a squirrel or an unsuspecting neighbor in their sight. Mostly, they sleep at my feet, sighing and snorting and passing a little old woman gas.
The click of my keyboard has amplified as well. It’s a resounding chorus in my empty office. Click, click, click. I like the sound. It soothes and comforts. But it’s definitely louder than it has ever been.
Even when my kids are home, they’re often out of sight. They no longer pull on my shirt or sit at my feet or ask me to read them a story. Instead, they finish homework in their bedrooms, they text their friends, they complete one activity and move to the next.
“Mom, can you drive me to the library?”
“Mom, I have play practice tonight.”
“Mom, I forgot that I have to stay after school for orchestra today.”
“Mom, I’m going to Sophie’s house.”
They ask, they tell, and then they’re gone.
George breaks the silence in the afternoons with the lovely wail of his violin, the deep, resonant sounds of his woodwinds. Occasionally, I’ll hear the TV in the family room. Sometimes, if I listen carefully, I get to experience Mary Claire and her ukulele.
But more often than not, this house rests comfortably in quiet. It’s not a bad quiet, just a new quiet. It’s the inevitable silence of kids growing up and claiming their own lives.
I have always been a quiet-filler. Chris often references the Alanis Morissette lyric that he believes was written just for me: “Why are you so petrified of silence? Here, can you handle this… ?”
Can I handle it? Do I have a choice?
I am not filling these silences with anything more than a clicking keyboard and the whir of a washing machine.
There is no proper substitute for the quiet my growing children leave in their wake.