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ANN BAILEY: Home alone

People don't have to know me very long before they figure out I'm a pretty structured, organized person. I make daily "to-do" lists, keep track of appointments on the calendar and mentally mull over what projects need to be completed and how that...

Ann Bailey
Ann Bailey

People don't have to know me very long before they figure out I'm a pretty structured, organized person. I make daily "to-do" lists, keep track of appointments on the calendar and mentally mull over what projects need to be completed and how that can be accomplished the most efficiently.

It probably wouldn't be surprising to these same people that being "off the clock" makes me a bit uncomfortable. However, they may raise an eyebrow when they learn that I didn't revel in the reason why, that for several evenings last week, I was clock-free and didn't have to pay any attention to schedules. The cause of my clockless, schedule-free evenings was the absence of our three children. Brendan, Thomas and Ellen who were attending a camp in Minnesota, which left my husband, Brian, and me childless for five and a half days.

While no one doubts that we love our children, it seems to be a common assumption that there's rejoicing and dancing in the streets when kids go to camp and the house is only occupied by two adults. Of course, we still have our dogs, Minnie, Maggie and Rosebud and cats Smokey and Jessie, to take care of, but they don't say much or require ferrying to friends' houses, sporting events or swimming pools.

Not-so-golden silence

With a personality like mine, you might think that I would revel in the chance to spend some quiet time at home in the evenings without children. But that's not the way I felt last week. Instead, the house felt too somber, too empty. In fact, I found myself finding things to do to fill the hours and silence that permeated every room in our house.

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The silence wasn't the result of non-communication between Brian and me. We are best friends, and as such, we have good conversations whether the children are there, or not. Rather, the stillness was the result of the absence of activity. Sure, Brian and I kept busy most of the time doing projects, but it wasn't the same as when there are three children bustling about.

When Brendan, Thomas and Ellen are in the house there are always several animated conversations going on and at least three projects underway. For example, Thomas might be making a paper blowgun at the kitchen table while talking about the fort he and Brendan are building in the woods. Meanwhile, Ellen is playing a game of fetch with Rosebud, her golden retriever, and giggling as her dog goes sliding across the linoleum in pursuit of the ball. Brendan may be in the home office next to the kitchen putting the latest movie he filmed on YouTube or trying out some wrestling moves on his cousin, Stephen.

Brian and I often are in the midst of it all, cooking dinner while we step around the children and dog(s). Usually Minnie and Maggie also are in the picture unless Maggie has stolen some of the food we are preparing and has been put in her kennel.

While this sounds like -- and is -- pandemonium, it's the kind of life I've become accustomed to, and I love it and miss it when it changes. I am especially grateful for it because I waited a long time for it and, at one time, thought it might never be in my future.

Worth the wait

Although, I am a fairly traditional person, when it came to marriage and children I was a little unconventional. I didn't get married until I was 31 and Brendan, my first, was born when I was 38. I didn't intentionally wait until then to become a mom, it just happened that way. In fact, shortly before I learned I was expecting Brendan, Brian and I had discussed adopting a child because it didn't look like having our own was realistic.

We were delighted, then, to find out that I was pregnant with Brendan and felt doubly blessed when Thomas was born about two years later and Ellen, four years after that. Their births gave the saying "better late than never," new meaning.

Because I was single for 31 years and didn't have children for the next seven years, I had a chance to have a lot of quiet time, to travel and to work on house remodeling projects. Now, Brian and I are happy to concentrate our efforts on the most important project we will undertake -- raising our children.

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That's not making a judgment that people who choose not to, or who can't have children are living lives that are any less worthy or that the things they are accomplishing are any less valuable. Instead, I'm saying that for Brian and I, raising Brendan, Ellen and Thomas, trumps anything else we could do in life. And adding life to our family is something that our children do in triplicate.

The sounds of their laughter and voices, the pounding of their feet on the stairs and the banging of the doors as they fly out of it fill our house with energy and infuse us with their spirit.

Maybe by the time Ellen, age 6, graduates from high school and I am age 62, I'll be ready for prolonged sounds of silence. For now, I'm glad that it lasted only five days and that once again our house is a hubbub of activity. Not being able to hear myself think makes me happy to be here.

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