Surprisingly, being the youngest of a large family can be lonely. As the baby of so many siblings, I was largely an observer. I watched each of my siblings grow older. There were a lot of years spanning between my oldest sibling and I. So I had a good deal of teenage angst and family drama to watch. Sometimes I knew too much, other times I didn’t know enough. I watched as ultimately, every single one of them left home. Then there was no one left but me.

There were visits to the hospital, court dates, car accidents, missing persons. As a young child, I only had small pieces of information. It took years in some cases for me to put all the information together, piece by piece, to get entire pictures. Like a puzzle. On the other hand, there were also quiet conversations between my mother and I. I was a tiny confidant. The safety of which came from my ignorance in being a child. But I remembered, and these talks often became pieces of the puzzles that I later put together.

Before I started school, I would pass the days with my mother. We drove 30 miles to Taos everyday where the older kids attended school. We’d wait. Sometimes passing the days at our church, where the pastor allowed us to use the second floor, sometimes at the guest house of friends who lived in town. I can remember packing canned goods for lunch: Spaghetti-o’s and green beans. Sometimes we’d pass the time at local restaurants snacking on donuts while my mother drank coffee and visited with friends. I’d watch and listen, not because I naturally have a nosy nature, but because there was little else to do. I would draw pictures on napkins and in notebooks, a silent audience.

The older kids graduated and/or moved out. What had once been a full house slowly dwindled. My mother’s emptying nest slowly began to fill with more things. Where once I could go find any number of people to comfort me or play with me, I had to learn how to entertain myself. Drawing, playing with my dolls, or riding my bike became my favorite habits. They required no one else. In the summer, I would ride my bike for hours on end. The ideal times being early morning or late evening. Up and down the long dirt road behind the house. Up the hill, down the hill as fast as possible. Braking suddenly at the bottom of the hill, seeing if I could leave a longer skid than the last time. It was calming. To this day, nothing makes me feel as carefree as a bike ride. As I pedal, I feel the wind in my face, the worries melt away, and I am eleven again.