• 70°

Things heard and not heard

Yes, it was annoying. I kept meaning to do something about it. But I didn’t. And gradually, I got used to it. I didn’t notice it anymore. Except when my husband complained.
“Don’t you hear that?” he’d say. “Doesn’t it bug you?”
I’d shrug it off and keep loading the dishwasher. I’ve shrugged off a lot of stuff in my years. Don’t even try to tell me that you haven’t, too.
Then my boy, my youngest, came to visit with his wife and their 2-year-old and their 3-month-old baby. And I could not ignore it anymore.
When the boy was little, about the size his 2-year-old is now, he’d take my face in his sticky hands and make me look in his blue eyes until he was sure I heard what he wanted to say.
He still does. Not with his hands, but with his voice. It’s big and deep and resonant and commanding like a teacher’s.
That is what he is: A teacher. In more ways than one.
I like to brag that he teaches third grade at the school where he once nearly got kicked out of third grade. If that’s a bit of an overstatement, too bad. I’m his mother. I’m allowed.
This morning, he stood in my kitchen and said, “Mom, doesn’t that sound bother you?”
I looked up from loading the dishwasher. “What sound?”
“This one,” he said. He opened and shut the door on the fridge, causing a soft, melodic clanging of a half-dozen glass vases that I had stored on its top.
“Oh, that?” I said. “I’m used to it. I don’t hear it anymore.”

He laughed. Then he began to explain in his patient, teaching voice why exactly I did, in fact, hear it loud and clear.
Babies, he said, hear in their mothers’ wombs. Dogs and cats prick their ears in their sleep. We all hear and react — with joy or fear or amusement or alarm — to various sounds, whether we think we hear them or not.
I smiled, then told him a story.
As a child, I lived in a house that sat 50 yards, give or take, from a railroad track.
By day, I’d sit in an apple tree waiting for the train. When it passed, I’d pump my fist until the engineer blew the whistle.
This for me was supremely entertaining, far better than chasing cows or jumping barbed-wire fences or playing fetch with a dog that refused to fetch.

But at night, when I slept by an open window in a bed that shook with the rumble of the tracks and the roar of the engine and the whine of the whistle, I did not hear a thing.
At least, it never woke me.

But did I hear it? I don’t know. All I know is this: That sound is recorded somehow, somewhere, in my memory, in my cells, in the very marrow of my bones.
Even now, after all these years, when I hear the rumble and roar and whine of a freight train, it takes me back, not to that apple tree, but to that bed in that room in the dark of night.
Did I hear it? Yes, on some level, surely I did. There are many things I’ve heard without hearing — all etched, imprinted on my memory and my soul:
My parents arguing late at night. My mother weeping in the kitchen. My blind brother waking up to watch a sunrise. My babies snoring softly in their cribs. My teenagers sneaking in past curfew. My late husband fighting for a breath.
I want to tell my youngest, the teacher, about all those things, everything I have heard and not heard. But the time we have together is brief and busy with the comings and goings of a 2-year-old and his baby brother.
So, instead, I ask him to do his mother a favor: Take all those vases off the fridge and put them out in the garage. Which he does, without question. He’s good that way, my youngest.
My husband will be happy. And I won’t have to hear them clanging anymore.
Maybe.

Contact Sharon Randall at www.sharonrandall.com.

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Hundreds turn out for annual Juneteenth celebration on newest federal holiday

Local

Between local champions and an upcoming state tournament, pickleball putting Salisbury on map

Business

Business leaders hope to draw big crowd for job fair at West End Plaza

News

Officers cleared in Mooresville shooting

Business

From firefighter to photographer, Brianna Mitschele is ready to capture more moments in downtown Salisbury

News

25 years later, runners reflect on Olympic torch’s trip through Rowan

News

Commissioners to consider designating Newberry Hall House as county historic landmark

Farm & Garden

51st annual Old Southeast Threshers’ Reunion set for July 1-5

Business

Biz Roundup: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Foundation awards grants from Salisbury to Jerusalem

Lifestyle

Kristy Woodson Harvey: For Dad

News

South Salisbury Fire Department activates new weather siren

Lifestyle

Library Notes: Meet the ‘Dare Devil Dogs’ in Week 5

Faith

Q&A with Bishop Tim Smith

College

Wolfpack tops Stanford falls in College World Series opener

Lifestyle

‘Down by the Praise Pond’ shares local author’s faith in debut children’s book

Nation/World

Driver crashes into crowd at Pride parade in Florida; 1 dead

News

Search continues after 3 tubers die, 2 disappear at dam

News

Research from NC State professors is aboard space station

Education

Livingstone College celebrates federal recognition of Juneteenth

College

Wolfpack faces Stanford today in College World Series

Nation/World

Tropical weather lashes Gulf Coast with winds, rain

Nation/World

Girl attacked by bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

News

Cooper vetoes bill that would have allowed more to carry guns in churches

News

Two tubers remain missing after going over Dan River dam