He always knew that his parents were having an argument because the house was silent. Not the loaded, weighty silence of two sides at war, no, he was very lucky to grow up in a house where he never doubted that his parents love for each other was complete and unconditional, but just silent. His dad wasn’t singing in the kitchen. His mom wasn’t blasting music out of her study. He and his little brother would come into the house and hear nothing and know that Mom and Dad weren’t seeing eye to eye.
Sometimes, if they were very careful and their parents had lost track of time, they could pull the door quietly behind them, slide off their sneakers without a sound, and tip-toe through the living room to peer into the dining room. Their mother always sat forward, elbows on the table, leaning towards him. Their father always sat straight upright, perfect posture, arms folded loosely across his chest.
“But is it really a priority?” Mom would ask, “I understand that it can be good and would probably be fun, but is it a priority in our lives right now?”
“I think so–yes,” He countered. She made a clicking sound with her tongue that meant she disagreed. “I think it’s a classic experience, a stereotypical childhood memory that doesn’t carry the same weight or joy if it’s done as an adult. And I think that if we continue to push it off then they will age out of the sweet spot where it can be as fun and as impactful as it will be.”
Mom brought her hand to her cheek and rested her head on it. “Okay. I can see that, but what are you offering to cut down on in the mean time? No beach trip to see your parents? No more steaks? There has to be a give and take.”
“Well, I’ll immediately say that we have to have the beach trip to see my parents because it’s not fair to them that they don’t get to see the grandkids because we want to save pennies. Theoretically, we could have Dad come out and pick them up, and we’ll not take those vacation days–earn a little more money for a week to help towards the fund. Besides, I know Mom would love the chance to spoil them uninterrupted for a week.” The Mother of this household made the clicking noise with her tongue again, and their dad laughed. “I know, I know. But it comes back to the same point. A little spoiling is good for them. Teaches them to remain level headed even when they can get everything they want.”
“I don’t know, we’re going to have to do more than that, though. This is going to take some figuring and I’m still not sure it’s something that needs to happen, per se.”
“I know that. But I think–” Dad suddenly looked away from their mother and saw two little tufts of dark hair and four dark eyes peering around the dining room door, “We are going to have to finish this conversation later,” he finished without a beat, “We have eavesdroppers.”
Their mom looked at her watch, then turned to look at the door where the boys had disappeared back behind the wall, as if being out of sight meant they had never been there at all.
“Boys! Bags to the table now. We will have a discussion about listening in when all of our homework is done.”
“Yes Ma’am,” they chorused, pulling their bags to the table. Once homework was started, Dad would go to the kitchen to start dinner, and Mom would go to the study to finish her work assignments for the day.
And the house would be silent.