Last week was all about the smells of childhood. (Okay, of my particular childhood.) This week it is about the sounds. Sound isn’t used as often as smells in sensory description but it should be. I have heard it said that if you can put a sound in the scene it will stay with the reader long after the smell has faded. But sounds are hard.
My grandmother whistling. She whistled all the time. When hanging the clothes out on the line, cooking, cleaning, she loved to whistle and was good at it. (Me, I never learned how.)
Church bells. We lived just a couple of blocks from Queen of All Saints church and the bells were a part of growing up for Sundays and holidays. Each time they surprised me as though I had forgotten them from the week before.
A doorbell that buzzed. The doorbell on our house was one of those round domes (rusted) that you pushed and it let out a long BUZZ.
Slamming of the WOODEN screen door. We didn’t have a fancy door with one of those air thingys that let it close slowly. We had a wooden door with screen inset. It slammed great! I know the screen on the back porch was forever having to be tacked back in place because the dogs would poke holes in it.
The sound of sprinklers. We had one sprinkler that twirled in circles and another that moved side-to-side that we would try to jump under.
My grandfather sharpening his razor. He still used a razor strap.
My grandfather sharpening the carving knife. I don’t know what it was called but it was a long-handled thing that he would use to sharpen the big carving knife, sliding the knife up and down several times.
My grandfather sharpening other things. There was a small gray sharpening stone that lived in the kitchen junk drawer.
The slap of cards on the dining room table. My grandfather and I played a lot of cards together. I wish I remembered the name of the games we played. I do remember the sound of the cards against the polished dining room table.
Opening the garage door. We had a detached wooden two car garage. The doors slid from side to side on little metal wheels. One half of the garage had the boat and the other half was mostly junk. I can’t remember there being a car in the garage until after the boat was gone.
Closing the shed. The shed in our backyard was big, bigger than a one-car garage. I don’t know what it was used for originally in the house but it was my grandfather’s workshop and storage place. It had a set of doubledoors that we had to open to let in all the light. But to close them there was a big wooden arm that swooped down from the inside. I was always afraid of catching my fingers in it.
Sheets snapping in the wind as they hung on the line. My grandmother always preferred the sheets hanging out on the clothesline to dry in the sun. I remember the sound of her snapping them as she folding them too.
Knocking down the walnuts and almonds. In the fall we would use the long poles to knock the walnuts and almonds out of the trees.
The hammer cracking walnuts and almonds. After they were down, and dry, we could eat the nuts. We’d sit at the table with a tiny little hammer and crack them open.
The boat engine starting up. Summers were spent fishing or at the beach so I remember a lot of sounds associated with putting the boat in the water, getting it back on the trailer again. The sound of it starting up the first time of the day.
The sound of the water slapping the boat. Fishing from the boat meant finding a quiet spot and sitting there (often for longer than I could sit still.) I remember the sound of the waves hitting the boat while we waited for the fish to bite.
TV Shows. Lawrence Welk and The Wonderful World of Disney. Gunsmoke, The Real McCoys.
Filling the dog’s water dish. My grandfather had a hunting dog that was an outside dog. His water dish was metal and it was bent funny so it didn’t sit level on the ground. I can still hear the sound of the water (no hose) hitting the pan.
The Pow Wow parade. We only had to go to the corner and we had a front row seat to the parade every fourth of July.
Fireworks. We could sit on the roof of the shed and see and hear the fireworks being set off at the high school just a couple of blocks away.
Football games. Because we lived so close to the high school and because back then it was a small town, we could hear the games, the crowd, the announcers even, right in our backyard.
The drop of the door to the basement. We had a good-sized basement (unusual for California) with steep stairs. My grandmother’s canned goods were kept down there. Once I was back up topside I could release the basement door and it would thump loudly back into place. I had many a nightmare about being left on the wrong side of that door.
My grandfather’s radio. He had a transistor radio that he kept in the kitchen so he could listen to the ball games. I remember the sound of the static as he rolled the dial, trying to get a station to come in a bit more clear. I knew it was a single that I would have to be quiet for a while.
My grandmother’s sewing machine. It seemed like the sewing machine was going all the time. For many years my grandmother made most of my clothes. She made all my costumes too.
Duck calls. The night before going hunting my grandfather would practice his duck calls with the wooden duck whistle.
Your turn. What sounds do you remember from your childhood?
Wow – you had some great ones.
I think the sound I liked best was the carnival music from the ice cream truck. Man, we’d race home, beg for money, and chase that sucker down two blocks to get ice cream. 🙂
You know, I don’t remember an ice cream truck from when I was a kid, but we did have one around when my kids were little.
Ahhh, we share many of the same memories.
Here’s a frightful entry….
Both Grandmothers smoked. Both drank beer. (One also liked whiskey).
Grandma V. smoked CAMEL non-filter. And she would often sit at the table with her cigarette, ashtray and a drinking glass full of beer.
I remember many times sitting with her at the table when I was young while she drank and smoked. And we would talk. I enjoyed those moments for I wasn’t as close to my Grandma V. as I appeared to be to my Grandma S. This due to my fussy eating. I didn’t like much that Grandma V. would cook.
During many of these conversations –at my mom’s table, my grandma’s table, with my mom cooking or washing dishes or my aunts doing the same– my grandmother would start coughing. Coughing really hard. And deep. You could hear the gurgle of phlegm. And all the powder makeup that my grandmother wore didn’t hide how red it would sometimes make her face.
This coughing would last only moments but it was the only sound heard as everything else would go silent. Peoples voices. Peoples movements. It was like the radios would turn off. And the clocks would stop ticking.
Only one sound. Grandma coughing.
And then she would stop. No one said a thing. The clocks would start ticking and everyone would do what they were doing. It was like that sound never existed. As a child I wanted to say something. The normal things people say. Like “Are you OK?” Or “I hope your cough gets better.” Or…
“Maybe you shouldn’t smoke.”
But no adult every said a word. All her children. My mom. My aunts. Donna. Karen. Claire. No one said a thing.
It was like I was only one who heard the sound.
Until I too learned to pretend that I heard nothing.
Re: Here’s a frightful entry….
Oh wow! This was a perfect scene for that book you’re going to write! Thank you for sharing.
My dad played the accordion!!
Now that must have been fun.
Hmm…sounds left out, me playing the clarinet (painful), me playing the piano, (better).
I have no musical talent whatsoever!
I don’t either, not really. I used to love to play the piano for ME but husband #1 convinced me that it was a fate worse than death to listen to so I let it go.
Pisses me off royally about now.
I love your list, Susan! What a great post.
I remember supposedly napping at my grandmother’s house and the sound of her telephone ringing in a phone “nook” downstairs – and the echo-y (is that a word?) sound of her shoes on the wood floor when she went to answer it. And she had one of those buzzy doorbells, too!
The sound of the glider on the front porch – squeaky.
A table fan whirring back and forth.
Oh the phone! How could I have forgotten that old fashioned ringing phone (with the cord attached!)
We had one of those water-cooler type air conditioners, the kind you fill with a hose. That one’s a double memory tease, because not only did it smell like dust just before the rain, but it rattled and thumped and wheezed like an old pickup coming up the hill. I loved that sound.
What a great description!
What a great post!
I remember the sounds of the plastic wheels on our Big Wheel rolling and bumping over the access road behind our house, and the way they would sometimes spin in place on the dirt if you peddled too hard.
I’d forgotten all about Big Wheels, which I didn’t have but my kids did. Oh but we used to put a playing card in the spokes of our bicycles for a neat sound.
I love these. I’m in the middle of making room/rearranging things for more CDs on a shelf, so I’m going to mull on the sounds & post as I think of them.
The telephone. My parents owned a veterinary clinic and, for many years, it was just the two of them. The phone ringing was often a “call,” someone with a sick/possibly sick animal. Dinner conversation went on hold, etc, while we listened & tried to work out whether Dad or Mom would have to go down to the clinic. We learned quickly to recognize a flea allergy (could wait till office hours) or a pet that had been hit by a car (that was a sure bet that one or both parents would head out). And there was what we refer to as the traditional Christmas cesarean (sp?), the phone call that almost always came when we were halfway through opening our presents. When I got older, I used to go help my dad with those, and that made for an extra fun Xmas, usually.
The whistle–my grandfather could do it, my dad could do it, and now I can do it. Shrill, loud, and meaning–come, now!
Gravel crunching and a van door sliding from the driveway next door, just outside my bedroom window. Very nice neighbors, but I never did figure out what they were doing out there at 4:00 in the morning!
The silence of laying awake in my sleeping bag in the middle of the night, in the back of our station wagon, while my parents drove and my sisters slept. There had to be noises, my parents talking, the car engine, but the memory is of silence.
The theme song to MASH–I know, but this was the first “older” show I watched, and I typically watched it by myself–nobody else was interested.
That’s it for today–fun!
Great memories, Becky! I love the phones calls to your parents.
My nana, who warbled hymns in a high voice all day long.
Mockingbirds, barking dogs, and overripe oranges thudding to the ground in the citrus grove.
Great list, Susan. I’m loving these posts.
Oh I can hear your nana now. Lovely memories. Thank you.