Thursday, April 19, 2018
Opinion

Only child not necessarily a lonely child

I guess it's assumed automatically that an only child must be a lonely child. But that's not necessarily true. I can say that because I'm an authority. I'm an only child, but I don't ever remember being lonely.

Because I had no brothers or sisters, I quickly became much more adult. I lived with a mother and father, a grandmother and an aunt. There was a lot of work to do and little time to be lonely. My folks didn't treat me like a child. They accepted me as one of them. And I was.

In the 1930s, everybody in the family pitched in to help. Every meal was done from scratch. No TV dinners. No TV. The washing was done by hand and was hung on the line in the back yard. It had to be removed, folded and put away. The beds had to be made each day. Every day we took a different room to clean completely. The groceries had to be put away. We had to remove the pan under the ice box and empty it every day.

We grew our own vegetables and picked our own peaches and cherries. We put up our own jams and jellies. There wasn't time to be lonely.

My father showed me how to paint and when he was at work, I painted the old kitchen. Colonial green. I was just a kid when I tiled the bathroom. I weeded the gardens as my grandmother taught me.

In the cold New England winters, I would go with my father to help old women get shoveled out. He taught me how to cut the snow into squares and slowly removed it so the driveway was clear.

At age 11, I became interested in writing. I wrote a book in long hand and read it out loud to my folks. They laughed in all the right places and encouraged me. My mother then bought me a pine desk and chair and a typewriter with glass sides and I started to write things very much like this column. And I was never lonely.

There were many great advantages to being an only child. When your mother makes a casserole of baked macaroni and cheese, you don't have to share with siblings. If you have a birthday cake, you can eat the whole thing yourself and not feel guilty.

You can live your life pretty much as you please and you can be thoroughly selfish and it doesn't matter. Best of all, you can be happy in your own company. You can sit quietly and think great thoughts. You can choose friends as you see fit if you feel the need to talk to someone like a brother.

The dictionary definition of lonely is "solitary, desolate and dejected by the awareness of being alone.'' That just covered the down side. I think to be yourself is not necessarily lonely. Greta Garbo wanted to be alone. Lots of people choose to be where it's quiet so they can think. There are plenty of distractions today. Often, there's not enough quiet time.

Only me? Yes. Lonely me? Never.

Jim Aylward of New Port Richey was formerly a nationally syndicated columnist and radio host in New York City.

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