The Sounds of a House

We think we’ll remember details. But if we don’t write them down we forget. Before I move out this little house I want to describe some of the sounds that make this little house what it is.

At this house the sunlight in early afternoon warms the French doors that lead to the back deck. The glass heats and makes a sharp, loud popping sound! It can really startle you. There you are rocking the baby in her room for an afternoon nap and Pop! Tick! Crack! You think the word, intruder. With the baby on your shoulder you pad down the small tile hallway to discreetly check the French doors.
Nothing. Nothing stirring. Just hot sunlight on the doors. Huh, you think. This sound will take some getting used to.
The mail truck revs to get up our hill. I hear the driver’s boot on the gas pedal. 30 second pause. Then he revs again. Next mailbox.
I lay a blanket in the living room. My baby boy plays inside the afternoon pools of sunlight on the living room floor. This is my wonderment hour. The light dapples through the branches high up on the west side of the house. This is when I like living in this house best.
Our dog will bark at least three times in this stretch of time. Once for every neighbor coming home from a day’s work. If the kids leave their bedroom doors open, she will rush their windowsills, nudge open the curtains with her nose to be the nosy neighbor.
The sound of my relief. B. Sterling’s key turning in the lock on the front door. But his house key was poorly made, so the sound is like a dull saw. In goes the key—grating sawing sound. Dog barks. Kids scream. Daddy’s home! I let myself feel tired.
The toddler’s door is sticky. Too tight for its frame. I lay her down in her crib; she’s in that tenuous half-asleep state. She could be startled…or could drop into blissful rest in seconds. Tip-toe to her door to leave. Turn the cheap, brushed metal handle. The door squawks. I cringe. Every single night, the same sound. It will squawk again in the morning when I go to get her up.
Summer night. Both kids in bed. The coolest place to relax is the living room. The ceilings is low and the fan hanging down whirls at top speed. I read in prone position for hours. My only interruption is bemusing: the sound of the light chain and the fan chain rhythmically nudging each other. Tick tick, tick they talk to each other all evening like that.
Cleaning up dishes. Making lunches for tomorrow. A thin, strained, high pitched sound… something electrical zinging. I look around, then up. It’s the cheap IKEA halogen lights. Means a bulb will go out soon.
A rainstorm wakes me up…the days before we installed gutters. A constant flood of water cascading down the roof just outside our bedroom window. It feels like being inside the cave behind a waterfall.
Our newborn baby cries. I groan but get up. The fatigue weighs a hundred pounds. It’s hard to keep moving. My husband snores on. I could weep for envy. I open our bedroom door and step into the hallway. Of all the difficult feelings of new motherhood I find this one the most bleak. The feeling of loneliness in the night when my baby cries for me. It seems the whole world is being restored by deep sleep except me.
But as I step into our little hallway I glance down the hall all the way to the small kitchen window. Not only does the little window look west, but it looks west from the top of our hill. Little window; long view. I can see all the way to 290. I can even see the lights in Johnson City.   And if lights, then people. And if people, then I am not so alone in the middle of the night. The baby’s door squawks as I open it, but her cry levels down a touch when I whisper her name. “Sshhh,” I tell her, “Mama’s here.” Already her first and deepest blue memory is the tone of my voice in this little house.