They were the best; the best sounds of the day, the best sounds ever. They were the sounds that came from the kitchen, the sounds of a fire being built in a wood stove, sounds that announced a new day was about to begin. There was the sound of newspaper being crunched up and put in the fire box followed by kindling and larger pieces of wood. Kindling and wood that had been split and dried in the wood shed the year before. There wasn’t much sound from a sulfur match being struck and flaring into life but when the sound of the metal lid being put back on the stove clattered in the kitchen anyone would know that the lighting of the fire had been done. The metal lid made a special sound, a comforting sound, a sound that said that soon the fire would be well under way and before long the kitchen would be warm. There was the sound of the draft and the damper being adjusted. These were special sounds and to a small boy it was a nice way to wake up.
The ritual of the stove was followed by the shuffling of feet. It was a quiet shuffling but none the less it was of feet that were moving with a purpose. There was a kettle to be filled with water, water that gushed into the kettle from a pump over the kitchen sink, a pump handle that squeaked in protest and the sound of the kettle being put on the stove. Before long the smell of coffee would make its way through the house to be followed by the sound of soft chatter, morning talk that followed the smell of coffee.
The smell of coffee was an adventure in itself. The aroma of coffee was another morning ritual and mornings were full of rituals like no other time of day. Distractions hadn’t yet had time to clutter the landscape and how the coffee found its way throughout the house was one of those great mysteries of life. It found its way into every nook and cranny; every corner. Everybody welcomed it and nobody was excused.
Once in a while, not often, but once in a while the smell of bacon would challenge the coffee for attention and more often than not it won. Bacon was a special morning treat and its strong sweet smell raced the aroma of coffee through the house. The coffee didn’t stand a chance. This didn’t happen often but when it did there wasn’t anything like it. Morning sounds, morning smells and morning chatter were all special to a small boy. These were soothing sounds and a wonderful way to start the day.
These were the sounds that allowed a young boy or girl, a child, to drift back to sleep; a drifting back to sleep that let such a child know that all was right in the world, in the world of the child of course. A short time later that child would be woken again by the sound of a motor being fired into life, the motor of a car, a truck and sometimes a tractor. These were strong and powerful sounds, sounds that meant one thing, soon it would be time to get up and another morning ritual would begin.
Getting up and getting dressed for the day was a ritual that changed with the seasons. Dressing for spring was about staying dry, summer about staying cool and fall was about wondering what kind of a day it might be from being warm to cool too cold.
Dressing for winter took on a life of its own and there wasn’t any escaping the cold, the snow or the wind. Summer clothing gave way to layers and long underwear (long johns) and these long johns found their way into the sounds of morning. They would be laid out over the oven door of the wood stove to warm them up just a little. That was as warm as they would be all day and it made pulling them on feel so good. It was not quite a morning sound but it was close enough.
The sounds of morning didn’t fade away in a day or a night or even a year but fade away they did. The boy grew into a young man in his teens, a young man in his twenties and continued. He grew into a young adult full of hopes and dreams and ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood; the world. Before long there wasn’t a place for morning sounds any more.
There wasn’t any place or time for the kitchen sounds of a wood fire being built or a kettle being filled by the gushing water from a hand operated pump. There wasn’t any time to dwell on the aroma of fresh coffee or appreciate how the strong sweet smelling bacon could race it through the house. Like the smell of coffee and bacon all of those smells drifted away and the sounds of morning were over. They were not over forever but their absence lingered for years. They lingered for years, for decades and even more. They lingered for more decades than one wound care to count.
Years went by and slowly the sounds began to return. They didn’t return all at once. There wasn’t any defining moment. The young boy wasn’t a young boy any more, quite the opposite, and from somewhere, somewhere where they had been hiding, they began to return. Like the aroma from a pot of freshly brewed coffee suddenly they were back, the sounds of morning began to return.
It had been a long time since he had made a pot of coffee. Fresh coffee was brought to him every morning and he did recognize that there were some familiar thoughts that came along with it. They were recollections from a long time ago. One day he was sure he heard a tractor; a low and powerful sound. There was another morning when he thought he heard a logging truck fire up its motor but when he looked out his window there wasn’t any truck to be seen. There were times when he was sure he heard the morning chatter of his parents, kitchen chatter and another time he woke up to find his long johns warming on the open oven door of the wood stove; long johns as warm as toast. These were just memories but they were comforting memories just the same.
There was one morning when he was sure he heard a fire being started in a wood stove, the crinkle of the news paper, the kindling and larger pieces of wood, the adjusting of the draft and the damper but he knew wood stoves hadn’t been made in years. He didn’t fight the memory. He willingly went along with it. The morning sounds increased in clarity and volume. What had once been distant had become very real.
Then, like the ritual from another time the aroma of morning coffee filled his bedroom and with it came the strong sweet smell of bacon; bacon that always won the race and like those smells he drifted. He drifted back to sleep.
The homely comfort of ‘Morning Sounds’ – a tale of getting older, and of loss and change, but written with an understanding of and kindliness for – us – our humanity.