I’m not at all ashamed to admit I’m a homebody. I like spending time at home, and it’s where I’m really and truly happiest. No matter where we travel — it could be to the beach just for the day or a week’s vacation in England — I always breathe a sigh of relief when we walk in the front door of our home from wherever it is we’ve been.
One of the things I appreciate most about our house is the familiar sounds it makes. I’m used to most of the noises, and I take comfort in things like the winds howling across the roof and the sturdy attic beams creaking and groaning during the frequent Nor’easters we’ve had since we’ve lived here, for example. Or the buzzing of the mailman’s truck by our house each afternoon, a possible portent of party invitations, Pottery Barn catalogues and the occasional birthday package, in addition to the usual junk mail we receive. Who knows what fun and surprises the mailman’s truck might herald? I always pass the bills on to my husband, anyway.
Alone at my home office desk, writing my column and articles, I absorb the day-to-day background noises emitting from in and around my abode…the furnace popping on during a cold winter’s day, the refrigerator’s constant whirring hum, the hypnotic sounds of clothes bumping and thrashing around inside the dryer, the rain spattering the windows, the creaking of my office chair, the dog snoring gently at my feet…all sounds I know, and which let me know everything is just as it should be.
The Sounds of Silence
I like knowing all the noises, and when I hear something unfamiliar, I worry. The toilet in our guest bathroom makes a flushing sound once every hour or so, and the first time I heard it, I immediately called the plumber.
“Oh, this toilet is so old, it’s not even worth replacing the blah-blah-blabbedy-blah inside the tank,” the “arm and a leg” plumber told me when he came for the service call. “You might as well just get a new toilet.”
Since the toilet still works, and since its 1970s sunny yellow color matches the 1970s sunny yellow shower tiles and the 1970s sunny yellow bathtub, we’re keeping it, for now at least.
When we have house guests, however, or when a new dog sitter comers to stay, I always warn them about impending noise. “The toilet in the yellow bathroom makes a funny running sound occasionally, so don’t think that there are intruders or anything,” I say.
Some of my favorite sounds occur late evening. Often, I’ll be watching TV in our upstairs bedroom, with our dog, Lulu, on the floor next to me in her doggie bed, while my husband watches his sports or news shows downstairs in the family room. Around 9:30 or so, he usually heads upstairs to the kitchen for a little snack. I know this because I can hear the kitchen light switch pop as he turns it on.
It takes only a few seconds before the cabinet doors phwap! open, and snack bags begin to rustle. It takes only a few more seconds before Lulu, ever alert to the sounds of food, jumps out of her bed and quickly and determinedly jogs downstairs to join my husband.
I can usually determine the snack of choice by the sound of the snack packaging. Potato chip and pretzel bags, for instance, tend to emit a loud, rather sharp crinkling noise, while the plastic wrap on our cheddar cheese is almost whisper soft. Tupperware lids, usually covering our dinner leftovers, produce a fsshhht! sound, like a sucked in breath, when removed. It’s funny how I never hear the crunch of an apple or some carrot sticks during these evening forays.
There’s no use crying over spilled milk
I always know when my daughter’s up to something in the house by the sounds she makes. Most ominous is the sound of a chair being dragged across the kitchen floor, a noise which can be heard in every room and which would strike fear in the hearts of even the bravest warriors. I know she’s probably getting something from the freezer, cabinets or countertop, and what follows are usually childish expletives, like “Oh, no!” “Oops!” or “Mommy, I need you! Come quick!”
Most often, I’ll run calmly to the kitchen, only to find spilled Raspberry Crystal Light drink (always good for a few counter stains), a flour-coated floor (she’s discovered a passion for baking but not for cleaning up so much) or the pot-and-pan-filled sink (when she wanted to make me breakfast in bed – now how could I get mad at that?).