It’s hot, probably close to 100/f (38/c), but, as they say, it’s a dry heat (11% humidity). With abundant shade in the yard and large overhanging eaves on the south side, our house is tolerable. We might turn the air conditioner on a bit later, but not yet. It’s quiet inside. The dogs are asleep. Dianna is working on an art project, and the only noise is the tick-tock of the grandfather clock. It reminds me of afternoons at my grandmother’s house in rural Kansas.
Like most kids, I was only comfortable with lots of noise: radios loud on a good rock and roll station and friends all talking or yelling as narration to whatever we were doing, and whatever we were doing usually involved a lot of chaotic action. Adults who wanted quiet, maybe some soft music in the background, and “inside voice” conversations were the death of a good summer afternoon. And what was the purpose of going anywhere in a car if the radio wasn’t turned all the way up?
But the quiet of my grandmother’s house on a hot Kansas afternoon was different. The only sound was the tick tock of the mantle clock. An electric fan might be blowing. Sometimes the radio would be on low, if the station signal was strong enough. As brightly hot as it was outside, her house was well shaded and oddly cool. It was a gentle calming quiet, and I always felt comfortable in it. Her friends, knowing we were visiting, would come in for long quiet conversations about everything and nothing in a town where they already knew everything and nothing very much was new. I’m not sure why I found that comforting, but I always wondered how grandma could stand so much quiet with just the ticking of that clock.
Now I’m older than she was then and sitting in my own shaded, oddly cool house with only the sound of the ticking clock. Now I understand more. Children, for the most part, have little to recollect. Filling their hours with noise and action is important because otherwise there is not much there. Everything they do is a part of forming what will become their recollections.
Older adults have whole long lives to recollect, and in the quiet of a summer afternoon, with only a ticking clock for company, the room is filled with long ago friends and relatives, the excitement of new adventures remembered all over again, and ongoing conversations that never end. Music of remembered songs accompanied by mourning dove solos and sparrow choruses backed by breezes in the trees fills the air. It’s music that can’t be heard unless it’s quiet.
I suppose the hard parts are the in between years when we are too old to be kids, and our own kids get on our nerves when their noises and chaotic activity interferes with our noises and chaotic activity. In a few weeks we will have a visit by one of our daughters and two grandchildren. Our house will be filled with noise and chaotic activity. I wonder if they will hear the clock, the doves, the sparrows and the breeze? Times change, and this isn’t Kansas.