Sometimes, to win and argument, it’s best not to argue at all and just keep your mouth shut. I learned this lesson early on in life. Although, if you ask any of my brothers or The Sister, I must’ve learned it long after those seven years we spent growing up on Flamingo Street.
Back then I could, would, and did argue about most anything. But as I remember, there was an excellent reason for all my disagreements with my siblings. I was right and they were wrong.
Arguing for argument’s sake.
Little One and Sweet Caroline were a joy to be around during our recent vacation to the beach. Our two granddaughters seldom, if ever, argue while on vacation because, well, they’re on vacation. But the day after we returned, now that’s a different story. Seems they saved all their disagreements up and piled them into one day, and we just happened to have them for that day. Lucky us.
Their arguments started before breakfast, about what I still don’t know, and by noon my normal happy disposition had been replaced by a not-so-happy disposition. “What are you two fighting about?” The question spurred a whole new argument about who started the argument and what they were actually arguing about.
The Wife entered the kitchen and said, “You don’t have to be the referee. They’ll work it out for themselves.” Then she added, “Don’t listen. I’m sure your mom did the same when you were back on Flamingo.”
Just don’t hear it.
Try as I might, I just couldn’t not hear it. And there’s only two of them. Our mom had to contend with the five of us. Growing up back on Flamingo, there wasn’t a minute that went by without our house being filled with noise. And I should know, I was there. Mom must’ve had the unique ability to ignore all our fighting, turning it into white noise. But if one of us screamed because we were hurt, she instantly heard us. Guess one of the superpowers she got when she became a mom was selective hearing. And with us five kids arguing all day, this ability was the only thing keeping her sane.
Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit Mom’s ability to filter out all the noise. By dinner time I’d had heard enough. The Girly Girls’ arguments hit a level of irritation seldom reached even by us kids back on Flamingo, causing me to plead, “Girls, y’all been arguing all day. Please stop. My ears are hurting.”
Their dinnertime fighting paused long enough for them to exchange bewildered looks. In chorus they answered, “I’m not the one arguing; she is!” Then they started to argue about who had caused all the arguments. This continued all the way to bedtime.
The Girly Girls even argued about which bedtime story I should read. To bring peace, I read two stories. With their arguments paused for the night, the girls finally drifted off to dreamland. The heavy weight of noise came off our shoulders as a warm blanket of silence settled down on our house — a sound welcome and well earned. Their mom would be by in the morning to pick them up and then bring them back in three days.
Silence is deafening.
Funny thing about white noise: you hear it, but you actually don’t. But when it’s gone for a day or so, you miss it. In our house, the silence that replaces the constant noise of kids being kids grows ever louder with each day that passes without them. And by the third day, it becomes deafening.
The phone call.
Unable to stand it any longer, I called the Girly Girls. When they answered, I said we were excited to see them in the morning. “Papa, you and Gigi just saw us two days ago.” Then they told me they’d been playing all day. “It’s really noisy over here. We like your house. It’s quiet.”
Welcoming the noise.
Some folks will go their entire lives living without the noise and endless arguments that come from children and are perfectly happy in doing so. That’s not me. Silence is not only deafening, but I also believe it’s enemy of old age and the birthplace of misery. Even when the Girly Girls argue all day, the sound is welcome. I like listening to their laughter and, yes, even their arguments.
Just like with my brothers, The Sister, and all the kids back on Flamingo, laughter and arguments are windows into who they are. And the birthplace of stories they will read about when they are older.
Just like this story. A story about endless arguments.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]