I spent a lot of time alone as a child. The first reason is that I was an only child. But some only children are surrounded by people, cousins, neighborhood children. I have lots of cousins but they all lived hundreds of miles away. I saw a few of them when they came to see Disney World. So, the second reason was that there were no neighborhood children because we didn’t live in a neighborhood. We lived in the boonies. There were cows and bugs and snakes and alligators.
The third reason is that my dad, who I lived with instead of my mom, has never been one to join things or make friends. I heard him talk about a friend who he moved to Florida with, but that was it. I never met the man. My dad had coworkers who he never invited over. He never went on fishing trips with “the guys.” He went fishing on his own in the lake. My dad doesn’t like sports, so he never went to a bar to watch football.
I was neither encouraged or discouraged from bringing friends over, but dad would never do the things required. The parents of my friends wanted to meet him, but he’d never make the time. And when you’re a girl and you live with your single father, parents are reluctant to drop their daughters off in the boonies. I mean, my dad had a “weird” accent (being from Rhode Island) and had a crazy ex-wife. So friends didn’t come over much until I was in high school.
I don’t remember being lonely. I was very good at entertaining myself.
I played softball alone. I’d pitch an inflated ball at a tree. If the ball bounced back at me, I’d hit it with my pink bat and run to the elephant ears, which were first base. The rest of the game would be with imaginary kids. I even played tag with my imaginary troupe, which must have looked bizarre–one seven-year-old girl running and screaming in her yard, changing direction for no apparent reason!
I read books. My grandmother took me to the library often, where I’d check out stacks of books. I read indiscriminately. And I drew. And I built things with scrap pieces of wood from furniture my dad made. And I watched a ridiculous amount of TV.
There were a few years of a step-mom and step-sister, which upended everything, but eventually they were gone for good, and my dad had two jobs. So by the time I was a teenager, he wasn’t usually home until 10pm. And then (after his marriage to his second wife finally finally ended) he started going out. I guess I was about 14. For a while, he came home at midnight. Eventually he came home at three in the morning. Eight in the morning. Then sometimes he’d leave Friday and come home Sunday. And I’d be alone in the house in the boonies.
By this time, I had a friend who could come over for the weekend or I’d go to her place. Or I’d talk on the phone all night long. Or I’d eat too many tangerines while sitting on the dock or I’d climb on the roof or I’d go back to the TV.
We had a problem with cockroaches for a while, so I battled them, pushing my bed to the middle of the room in hopes of avoiding them.
There were no cellphones in those days, of course. I just wouldn’t know where my dad was or when he was coming home unless he called to tell me, which he sometimes did.
Sometimes I’d get frightened, but those are stories for another day as this post is already too long.
These days of staying home and social distancing stir a lot memories as I’m sure they do for everyone.
Stay safe. Stay home.