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A Family Commune, One Year Later: Laughing, Barking, Crying, Shrieking...

Girl screaming

The shriek of a 3-year-old can crack glass, shift a house on its foundation and register on earthquake scales 100 miles away. If you doubt that, come on over while Gracie, my granddaughter, pierces the air with a sound that is somewhere between a siren and a scream that will leave you vibrating for days.

She is the primary addition to the merging of two families into one household, the smallest human member in a home that grew overnight a year ago from the abode of a quiet, soft-spoken old couple with one dog, two cats and a turtle to an active, moving, vital unit of four adults, a male college student, a male teenager, four dogs, four cats, two-year-old Gracie, a dove and the turtle.

The " second family" moved in when our son lost his job with a state-funded conservation agency that lost money when public funds were cut off. We invited them to move in with us while they reorganized. It has worked beautifully on most levels, although occasionally we seem to get in  each other's way.

We share food costs, both women are gourmet cooks, I have a room I can close off when I write, two TV sets allow for evening entertainment choices and we stay out of each other's family arguments. Simply put, we give a little and take a little. Then there's Gracie.

She is a bright and beautiful child and able to dominate a room with a smile, a demand and, well, the shriek that stops clocks when she is either angry, happy or frustrated, like when one of the dogs will not obey. I guess maybe it's more a squeal than a shriek. It's just that I've grown accustomed to serenity and it is difficult adapting to loud new sounds.

We know that Gracie will grow out of the squealing stage because kids do, but meanwhile it is a rattling experience. "I've tried everything to get her to stop," her mother said to me one day.

I said, "Have you considered waterboarding?" BAD, bad idea. She just stared at me.

Our only casualty involves a raccoon that broke into the dove's 8-foot tall overnight cage and ate it. The dove, not the cage. At least it ended the interminable cooing. Meanwhile we deal with dogs barking, cats knocking over vases and lamps as they leap from here to there and various other minor disturbances, but continue to treat each other with love, warmth and respect.

All squeal-abatement strategies welcome. Waterboarding is NOT an option.

Photo: diegodiazphotography/Flickr


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