Reflections on being an only child:
ONE: Very little went unnoticed in my childhood. I like to phrase it this way because the stereotype that only children are “spoiled” never really sits right with me. I don’t believe I was spoiled, but having accomplishments both small and large continually recognized led to a very fortunate upbringing. I believe this is one reason I am compelled not just to write, but to share my writing with others. Being raised as an only child taught me, subconsciously, that things are made real by their recognition. Just as a piece of art is not complete until the viewer observes it, the things I try to comprehend through my writing do not feel temporal or grounded until they have been written and noticed on the page.
TWO: I have an unending curiosity about my friends’ siblings. If a friend’s sibling comes to town, I tend to bend over backwards in order to meet him or her. This is perhaps because I owe a debt of gratitude to all the siblings of my friends throughout childhood (especially the Winfree girls), who taught me about everything from sex education, how to bully and be bullied, seeking revenge, how to tell a white lie, the inexhaustible possibilities of pulling pranks, how to sneak junk food in the middle of the night, and much more. These things were passed down to me either directly via the siblings or indirectly through the siblings’ influence over my friends.
THREE: I will always, always wonder what it would have been like.
FOUR: I have fantastic aunts and uncles. As a child, I remember them as enthusiastic, playful, supportive, and generous adults in my life. (The hierarchy was thus: Grandparents were basically the best thing on the planet but aunts and uncles were a close second. Dogs were #1 in their own category of four-legged animals.) As an adult, my aunts and uncles are still supportive but in a naturally hands-off way (not to mention they all have kids of their own now). They’re interesting and cool people, too, and they care about family.
FIVE: For reasons two through four, if I ever have children I think I’d like to have more than one. That said, having one child would be fine so long as there are cousins who are about the same age that live very nearby and could almost suffice as siblings. On my dad’s side, my closest cousin in age is something like 14 years my senior. On my mom’s side, my closest cousin in age will graduate from college next year. This milestone is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time…not just his accomplishment of graduation, but his official “entrance,” more or less, into the independent adult world. Maybe soon enough our age differences won’t matter like. Maybe (and if I had siblings I’d better understand how to do this) we’ll be able to relate as adults and relatives in some very cool way that I’ve never experienced before.
SIX: All of that said, I can’t say I wish things had been different. (Ok, that’s not entirely true: I wish my parents hadn’t had to suffer through multiple miscarriages.) I found a black and white photo of myself today, taken by my dad on one of our many trips to the Oregon coast. I was about four years old in the photo, posing proudly next to a very elaborate village of sand and seaweed that I had constructed. The villagers were Lego people aligned in perfect symmetry in front of their dome houses—all of them families of three.
Stats: 36 mins = 3 miles