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A Wish Fulfilled by Anita Hull

I’ve always had a penchant for privacy and orderliness. Not that I’ve enjoyed much of either. In fact, most of my life has been rather chaotic.

Growing up I shared a room with my younger sister. She was always opening my drawers and getting into my things. Both she and my brother were born snoops. They claimed their inquisitiveness just showed their interest in me, but I attribute it to just plain nosiness. Regardless of what prompted this so-called interest, their questions made my life miserable; always asking what I was doing and where I was going. The one private place was the bathroom because it had the only door in the house with a lock. Solitude there was short lived, however. You’d hardly get settled when someone would be knocking on the door demanding immediate admission.

When I finished high school I went into nurse’s training but that was no different. Dorm life was like family life. Our doors were always open and we went in and out of each other’s rooms at will. Everything was shared: confidences, food, clothing, even boy friends. One thing I did learn in training was orderliness. Everything had a place and if you used something you were responsible to replace it so the person who followed you could find it.

After nurse’s training came marriage. The advent of seven children spelled death to privacy, let alone order. Life became one long session of finding things, picking them up and putting them away while stumbling over shoes and toys left in odd places. Even the bathrooms offered no sanctuary because we had to remove the locks after several of the children had locked themselves in. My husband announced one time that he was considering installing bleachers because every time he went into the bathroom, he was followed by a line of little kids; some of them not even ours.

I accepted all this commotion and confusion philosophically because I knew that eventually this too would pass. And it did. Everyone survived, grew up and each went his own way.

Now, in my twilight years, living alone in my empty nest, I have achieved my heart’s desire: organization and privacy. Everything has a place and can always be there. A pad of paper and pencil are at the phone awaiting any message. When I pick up the receiver I hear a dial tone, not some child rehashing his school day with another child who lives just next door. If I want to take off my boots in the front hall I can sit on the bench without first clearing off numerous books and coats that have been dumped there.

My kitchen is now a thing of beauty. It is as pristine and uncluttered as any operating room. No dirty dishes are in the sink; no jellied knives or empty pop cans sully the counters and there are no grubby fingerprints on the white cabinets. When I sit down to my meals, no sticky hand ever tugs at my sleeve and no little voice says, “Gee Mom, that looks good. Can I have some?”

In the living room the cushions on the sofa are all in order and the magazines neatly arranged on the coffee table. There are no newspapers or books strewn over the floor. Everything is picture perfect. As I view this quiet, orderly room I think to myself, “Peace. It’s wonderful.”

Well, if it is so wonderful, why do I feel that there is something missing?

Originally Posted (Jul 01, 2002)

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