I remember being 7 years old, in flanel footed pajamas, with a Dorothy Hamill haircut – blonde version – and a big half-toothless grin. I remember that it was well past bedtime, maybe even as late as eleven, when I stood there peaking around the living room corner, just watching.
At that moment, I wanted to be all grown up so badly I could almost taste the freedom. I didn’t want a bedtime. I didn’t want to go to school. I wanted a job because then I could go to McDonald’s for lunch and drink that yucky coffee stuff all day OR I could eat as many french fries as my paycheck would buy. Whatever, right? I mean being a grown-up meant everything. No limits. No rules. Nobody telling me what to do.
I remember also that my parents caught me watching. There they were with their friends, having a late play date, just sitting around playing cards and laughing with not a care in the world. There was nothing wrong with that, and certainly nothing I couldn’t also do if only I could join. For the most part, my parents were super cool like that. They would catch me up, and let me join in, no matter what time. I didn’t really play cards. I mostly just liked listening to everybody’s stories. By myself, I was a shy little bird, but with people I trusted – like my parents – I had social super powers and could always transform into the life of the party.
I ate that feeling for breakfast, or at least I wanted to. I loved being a part, and loved not feeling that I was missing out.
At slumber parties, I was the last one to fall asleep, and the first awake before the sun. I was terrified that I would awaken with shaving cream all over my face or toothpaste between my toes if I even dozed off for a minute. So I didn’t. Plain and simple, just like that, I didn’t sleep.
Some things never change. I still fear being left out. I still dread missing out on the fun, but I especially hate missing out on good conversation. I still eavesdrop in restaurants because of that, and still have a hard time focusing on just one conversation in social situations. I mean, what if I learn something, or have something really funny to add? That would be just terrible not to be in the right place at the right time. And the right place is always where conversations are happening, right?
Then again, maybe not. I don’t know. Conversations can become fights or confrontations, so they’re not always positive. I get that too. The thing is, I think that being an only makes us want to a part of something even more than folks with siblings. I think we have an intrinsic desire to be a part of something more than ourselves, no matter how much we enjoy our alone time. Then again, maybe this is an only/ orphan thing? I don’t know. Really I don’t. But I do know that I never eat lunch at McDonald’s or eat as many fries (or any really). I do drink the heck out of some coffee though, because I still want to be the last one down.