The Sounds Of My Childhood Home Haven’t Changed

Ehud Neuhaus

Morning

I am never the first one awake because my parents wake up at some ungodly hour that I would never be conscious for, unless I was catching an early flight or I forgot to take Melatonin the night before.

The coffee maker makes this angry hissing noise that sort of sounds like it’s malfunctioning. My parents both drink their coffees very slowly. I can barely formulate sentences or string thoughts together until I’ve had two cups or 14 hours of sleep, so it drives me crazy that they can both spend hours nursing a mug of coffee and sometimes not even finish it. From anywhere in the house, you can hear the clink of their coffee mugs hitting the granite countertop of the island in our kitchen. I always find comfort in hearing those clinks because it means nobody has plans for most of the morning. I hate waking up to an empty house.

Our staircase has very distinct creaks and everyone in my family has a very particular way of walking up and down the stairs. My brother, sister, and I used to play a game when we were younger, where whoever was watching TV by the stairs would loudly shout the name of whoever they thought was coming up. My brother always seems to throw his body up and down the stairs—even though he’s probably over 100 lbs heavier and several feet taller than he was when we first moved into the house 14 years ago, he has always bounced around loudly whenever he moves around the house. My sister walks really slowly and you can hear her dragging her slippers on the carpet. I’ve been told that my footsteps sound like I’m always scurrying somewhere, which is probably true most of the time.

Afternoon

A lot of cleaning happens. The newspaper—which my parents destroy and tear apart every morning—gets piled back together and thrown out. Dishes are loudly put away and sometimes they make this sharp scraping noise that makes me twitch. People come in and out. There are usually long periods of silence, punctuated by the sound of the garage door vibrating the entire house.

Whenever I visit now, I try not to make plans in the middle of the day so that I can sit in this silence. It’s weird and different because I used to actively avoid it when I lived here.

Night

When I was growing up (before Netflix existed and my family shared one computer), nobody was allowed to watch TV until 4pm. Especially if it were nice outside. I think that’s why I had weird East Coast Weather Guilt while living in LA because it was sunny every day and I’d feel this gnawing panic that would only be soothed if I went outside. I think that’s also why I prefer rainy weather.

The TV sounds start up in the late afternoon. We still follow that rule, although now it’s more out of habit than panic over our mom yelling at us. Someone will turn on the news or something sports-related or some kind of movie you don’t need to pay attention to, and you can usually hear my mom start cooking. She slams the kitchen drawers really loudly, so you can always tell. There’s one cupboard in our kitchen that’s filled with snacks and when you close it, it makes this very specific clicking noise and whenever I hear it, I always feel like I’m in on a secret—that someone is snacking before dinner. We used to eat sitting at the dining room table every night, but since my brother and I moved out, we’ve started eating while watching Seinfeld re-runs. Dinnertime feels and sounds slightly different at home now.

My bedroom window overlooks our driveway and part of our yard. We’ve always had this big pine tree that is covered in Christmas lights right in front of the house. I remember when I was 8 years old and would be in bed before my parents (now my parents go to bed at 8pm, which was coincidentally the designated bedtime I was assigned when I was 8), I’d always know when they were going to bed because I could hear them clicking the switch by the front door and then I’d watch those Christmas lights turn off. They still have that routine, the only difference is now I’m usually awake for a couple hours after that.

And it’s in those hours that the house is completely silent. TC mark

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