Sounds–and My Mother

There have always been sounds that I associate with my mother — and treasure. My all-time favorite from childhood to now is her banging pans early on Thanksgiving morning as she gets an early start on the big feast. I think what I probably heard was her getting the big roasting pan out to cook the bird. She was always in the kitchen, and certainly on weekdays she was there early. But regular cooking sounds never woke me like the banging of enameled steel, a kind of gong that signaled the start of the holiday. It was a fantastic feeling unlike any other, knowing Mom was down there beginning to work her culinary magic.

There were other sounds of course, the everyday kind that had a more subliminal comforting effect: the radio on school mornings tuned to WKRC and Stan Matlock. Often I couldn’t tell what was actually being said or the specific song on the air. Consciously it wasn’t necessarily even a happy sound: If Mom was working in the kitchen with the radio on, it wouldn’t be all that long until I had to get up for school. Subconsciously, though, I know the radio coupled with distant clinking of dishes and rushes of water from the sink faucet signified many precious things: security, dependability, care and continuity. If Mom hadn’t been down there, the silence would have awakened me with more, negative force.

Now, on my weekend stays at Mom’s house, I hear her sounds and embrace them as precious and irreplaceable — which they are. Sometimes it’s kitchen noises as Mom bakes biscuits or scones for breakfast. Sometimes it’s the tapping of her fingers on her computer keyboard, which I hear after I’ve lazily gone back to bed for a few more winks. She could be engaged in any of several activities: answering e-mails, typing up recipes, working with her quilting software, or writing up a post for her blog. Sometimes it’s the whirring of her Bernina as she sews busily on her current sewing or quilting project.

There’s a radio soundtrack to these activities as well, usually bluegrass from one of the volunteer public radio stations. I drift in and out of consciousness to strains of fiddle and banjo with the music of Mom’s activity layered underneath.

Yes, I feel lazy lying there when she’s up and around. I always was a night person, staying up till 2 a.m. on weekends, just doing needlework and watching TV, while Mom has always been an early riser, so we’re each being true to our natures. And I know she values her time to herself in the mornings, so there’s not really any guilt poking at me through the sounds I hear from my bed. I pull them up around my shoulders like her quilt that I sleep under, swathing myself in the comfort they bring.

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