Growing up quiet

It’s not that Bobby rejected the studiousness displayed by his sister and mother. Rather, he was bent on the acquisition of another skill: chess. The difference was that it was more important to him to study how to win the rook and pawn than to learn the three branches of government or where to move the decimal point in long division. The three Fischers, prototypes of Talmudic scholars, were always studying: Joan her textbook; Regina her medical tomes; and Bobby the latest chess periodical. The apartment was often as silent as a library. – “Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall – from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness”

Let me tell you, I planned to write about this subject tonight regardless, but as my life frequently enjoys doing, it throws some wild synchronous jab which perfectly substantiates or illustrates that which I want to discuss. See, I just came back from dinner at a medium-sized chain restaurant which I have alluded to before on these pages. It was my first time in almost a year returning to this restaurant. Upon entering, we were greeted with that nice Saturday evening quiet vibe, and the hostess took us to a table far in the back which certainly portends good fortune for someone like me who does not enjoy being immersed in the frantic dinner cacophony of loud kids and window-rattling screams. I didn’t notice until we were seated that she had seated us next to a table with a man and his three very young children. The oldest girl was about 9, and her younger siblings were a sister about 2 or 3 years of age, and a brother who was 1, at the most. We had just begun settling in and sipping from our drinks before the 1-year-old’s first belligerent shrieking demand pierced our ears. Fuck, it dawned on me. Our dinner was not to be peaceful tonight. The girls, perhaps due to their ages, were well-behaved, but the son would not shut the fuck up. Crying about food, yelling typical infantile commands at the castrated father who had ungraciously brought his brood here for dinner. The dude kept getting up from his seat in order to wipe the table or a mouth and to move food around and make sure his younger ones weren’t eating something that might shut them up for good. They kept asking and talking loudly, and at one point, one of them began clanging on the dish with the silverware. Each time the boy began shrieking in anger because of food he wanted or didn’t have or god know for whatever else reasons, I cringed and seriously dreamed of a world where restaurants offered duct tape to paying customers to silence the offspring of parents who carted their ill-behaved brats in tow, the same annoyances they had managed to raise in unruly fashion and bred to ruin and disrupt my peaceful dinners out.

See, I hate noise. I hate the frenzied sounds of chaotic human disassembly. Naturally, children are the most likely to contribute to this waking nightmare, but adults are quite capable of disturbing the natural order to peaceful ambiance. I was thinking of this after I read the paragraph quoted above from the new Bobby Fischer biography for it illustrated something I’ve always realized about myself, especially as it relates to others. I was raised in a quiet household. My dad would frequently read at the dining room table or smoke his cigars outside. My mom might clean up, read in bed, watch some television, but the volume in the house was never a crescendo of ear-shattering death like it is many other families, as I found out in later years as I grew older and experienced other ways of human “existence.” I learned that not all children and families experience the same measured sense of serenity and calm I entrusted as a child. And this dichotomy even occurred within my own family, for other branches of cousins, uncles, aunts, in-laws, were fucking LOUD. I recall that holiday events, when held at our house, seemed to boom the uncharacteristic, distasteful cacophony of yells and screams and exaggerated laughter and the house seemed to reverberate with an uncomfortable and unfamiliar quaky shudder in response to the strange human din. Nope, it was just my immediate family, my parents and my brother, who cultivated and relished this relatively contained and muted environment. This set the stage for my life. Growing up in such a restrained atmosphere creates a similarly restrained and thoughtful character; a sense of existence which permeated the entirety of my reality. Such silence of the outward world runs parallel with heightened states of introversion and introspection. And conversely, environments brimming with noise and chaos and disorder also denote high levels of extroversion and environmental involvement. A raucous household vibe dampens and hampers intellectual curiosity and destroys the peaceful march by which such a quality is most effectively able to flourish.

I recall many situations where I temporarily lived in or visited noisy households. You know the scene: kids running around screaming, crying, wailing, adults, in response, yelling louder and scolding and punishing; doors, screens, slamming, babies crying, items dropped, tossed, footsteps…it’s revolting. I can’t hear myself think, I can’t relax. Such an environment rattles my psyche because I was brought up in silence and I’m confounded that the existence of another reality exists where someone can only know a household of loud and jarring disruptions as the theater by which to grow and mature, and thus be robbed of any sense of silent or meditative introspection. Silence fuels the mind; loudness saps it. Two different worlds and I don’t want to be a part of the loud one.

So this father at the restaurant tonight, him and his annoyingly loud brat lived out the loudness that they know. All that they know. I embraced the silence that enshrouded the table, the pacific tone of subdued behavior and expression which followed in the wake of their welcome departure from the restaurant. I’ve often wondered if there is a racial aspect of loud vs. silent households, for most of the loud that I’ve experienced have been Hispanic. My culture is relatively loud and populated by swarms of agitated and dramatic children looking to make points, all at the same time. We are fond of parties and loud music and elevated voice tone and fiesta baby. The household I grew up in was not typical, and many of my friends seemed taken aback by the funereal tone of the house where I slept. However, there is a white family that currently lives in my building and they out-noise all the other Hispanics who live here. They have 3 loud kids and they are always running and yelling and screaming and slamming doors and they provide the beautiful counterbalance to any generalizations I might offer about elevated noise levels being the exclusive domain of Hispanic households.

Tonight when we got home, I turned the television on automatically and some stupid drivel boomed out the speakers about some ridiculous and intellectually pallid crap, so forgettable that I can’t remember it now. My son, returning rom the restroom, immediately turned my television off without comment. The silent action spoke words of…silence. This is a generational legacy and I believe it says lots about family lineages. Pay attention to the household noise level. This will dictate whether you are a match or not for that hot ____ you had the frist date with last night.