This week National Public Radio has been broadcasting a feature called the" Sounds of Summer" during drive time. Since my little summer noisemakers have just left for home, I had no trouble relating to the subject.
They arrived, with parents in tow, and stayed for eleven sleeps. After a few days a rhythm set in and I couldn't help but notice that the sounds began early. For the first few days my morning began with my name being whispered beside my pillow: "Gogo, can you please turn on the movie?" That sentence, repeated three times, guarantees that sleep is at an end, even though it's an hour until the alarm clock.
In a stupor I slogged to the den, desperately trying to remember which combination of remote buttons would produce the much-needed feature film. The six-year-old cinema connoisseur already had cued up in the DVD player either Ratatouille, Ice Age or Antz. I merely had to make it happen and maybe try to catch forty more winks. I usually wound up staying awake, attempting the paper, nodding in and out in the wing chair recliner to the background sounds of the feature length cartoons. As proof of my morning sluggishness, it took me until the fourth morning to realize that I should just teach Keira how to push the magic button combinations for herself. Naturally she got it on the first try and I returned to normal wakeup time with only occasional whoopss of laughter from the one-girl audience in the den.
Malcolm and his Daddy usually showed up next. Malcolm, clad in superhero shorty pajamas, usually starts out quietly with a "Good morning, Gogo" accompanied by a sleepy smile. Only a few minutes after he toddles toward the kitchen, the house begins playing its breakfast sounds - three-year old chatter with an accompaniment of oatmeal preparation, toaster pop-ups, dish clatter, all with an under-tempo from the perking coffee pot. By the time I hear my daughter in the shower upstairs the house is fully alive, a sharp contrast from my silent, solitary mornings.
Early this summer I began reading the morning paper on the porch and the most I usually heard was an occasional cardinal chirping good morning to our shared world. During this vacation visit, that peaceful porch becomes the social center of the house . . . a place for drinks, meals, computing, reading and just plain catching up. By the time my son arrived from New York and my step-daughter from California, the porch was always full, spilling over onto the patio, and the sounds of conversations and laughter transformed its solitude. I light candles at dusk when the evenings remain soft and balmy. The porch chats continue to the wee hours, long after the littler voices have nodded off.
The porch door had been a struggle last summer. Its sticky knob made transporting food and drink a precarious task at best so I taped the latch down. Fortunately the door still closes fully and that summer sound of the slamming screen door becomes a constant in the day. At first I thought we'd all learn to close it softly but I've given up, aware that I'm as much at fault as anyone. I soon realized that I could keep track of the family's comings and goings by its soft bang and which little person had just headed for the swing.
The yellow swing had hung quietly between the cherry trees awaiting the children's arrival. The outgrown little red toddler swing has been put away. Now that Keira has finally overcome the big swing's challenges, the heavy chain creaks against the S hooks as she pumps higher and higher, its rhythmic grinding declaring her derring-do. This summer, her bare feet pointed, she can touch the branches of the cherry tree, often accompanied by yelps of success, yet much to the horror of her visiting Great Aunt Julie.
I think of the swing as just an example of the annual summertime evolution. Each year the children return to Gogo's house looking for the resident books, puzzles, games and yard toys, and each year their mastery is greater. They swim in deeper parts of the CAR pool, they have lower scores on the putt-putt golf course. And each year the yelps of victory, the squeals of delight are louder, whether they're running through the garden hose or chasing a chipmunk.
Are some of the sounds better than others? Oh yes. The sound of a heavy piggy bank shattering, filled with hundreds of pennies, wasn't as loud as the little hearts breaking at the same time, but piggy banks can be replaced. And Gogo understands there will be squabbles and occasionally someone gets overtired to the point of sobbing exhaustion. Malcolm informed his mother after one much-needed nap, "I do a meltdown, Mommy." Everyone present could only smile while nodding agreement.
But those were unusual noises. I noticed this year that more machine noises contribute to the sound of vacation the dishwasher twice a day, the air conditioning on hot nights, and the constancy of the washer, the dryer, the shower. Thankfully the fans that provide so much comfort are silent. I try to vacuum only when a mess requires it and fortunately the lawnmower only visited once.
Now they've taken their little voices, squeals and laughter back home and the sound of silence was deafening for the first day. This morning I stepped barefoot on a tiny metal airplane and the sounds of summer came racing back to Gogo's. The words, however, were definitely not rated PG.
The bible exhorts us to make a joyful noise. I guess I have to wait the 138 days to Thanksgiving for my joyful sounds to return. It may be snow clad by then, but the swing will be patiently waiting.
Marcy O'Brien writes from her home in Glade Township where she lives with Ollie, a timid feline.
Ollie came out of hiding an hour after the house went quiet.