The refrigerator hums in the kitchen. The dog is gently scratching her ear with her hind paw. It’s comical watching her apply just the right pressure with this powerful back leg as she itches a spot over her right eye. Now she sighs like a surfacing whale. I can hear the air escaping her wet nose.
Now and then the electricity goes off for one reason or another. Unpaid bill, fallen electrical line. Storm. When this happens, it’s both delicious and distressing. I love the shuddering and then the deeply silent house. It’s delicious, as I said, wrapping itself around me like a cocoon. Nothing can get in. Nothing can be done. Nothing has to be. If it’s at night, candles are found, and lit.
A short time later, though, I inevitably think of the fridge, and all the food in it. I inevitably begin calculating what’s in there, and what it costs. What’s about to be wasted. I must then begin thinking of what to do. Ice chests. Neighbors. Cooking. Use it up. Check the freezer. The milk is always one of the first issues. Milk for coffee in the morning. Crucial.
The washing machine is going tonight too. That’s its own kind of comfort. But frankly it’s a lot of noise. The dining room light which frequently turns itself off for reasons unbeknownst to me also makes a sound, a kind of buzzing.
The streets around our home are quiet however. The hills fold in such a way as to cushion the sound of the highway not too far off. You wouldn’t know it. It is soundless. The only sounds I can detect from my bedroom at night are the freight trains thundering by many miles away, down by the waterfront in Oakland. Sirens now and then. Youths (presumably) doing donuts now and then. The cat on the window sill crying to be let in. The dog’s shuddering sigh. Sometimes she whimpers in her dreams.
Mostly, though, it’s luscious silence.
The full moon peeps around the edges of my velvet teal drapes. In the summer, there’s crickets. I love those summer nights of crickets. Crickets which I hear into October.
It’s March now, and there are as yet no crickets. That will be this summer.
No sounds now except the sloshing in the dishwasher and the humming of the fridge.
I think the house is silent. That the other occupants have turned in. But then I hear, “Mama. You left your glasses in my room.”
I have three teens in the house, you see, along with my seven year old golden retriever and the tortoise shell kitty somewhere or other.
The teen boys, my son and his friend, made dinner tonight. I called from the road. I asked if dinner had been made. “No,” came the laconic reply.
I said, casually, “Oh, okay. Then, I’m going to stop for something on the way home.”
Since spending money, and especially me spending money, stresses my son more than perhaps anything else, he said, “I’ll make dinner.”
It worked beautiful.
When I walked in the house an hour later, Ryan was cubing leftover chicken and pork roast on a wood board on the counter. David was sauteeing leeks with red chile pepper flakes. The aromas were of sweet allium.
I poured myself a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from the sideboard and disappeared into my room. I kicked my shoes off, set some pillows up, collapsed on the bed, crossed my ankles. Looked around. Breathed.
Ten minutes later, dinner was called, and served. A hunk of parmesan appeared on the table alongside a cheese grater. No one brought napkins. I tore a white paper towel remaining from an earlier time into four pieces. We grated soft mountains of parmesan onto our pasta, followed by salt and pepper grindings.
The pasta was good, silky from the leeks, tasty. At the bottom of my plate were some hunks. I said, “Why are there these big hunks on my plate? You have to slice these up too.”
My son said that was the pork.
My daughter did the dishes. Before she started, she fiddled with the radio dial on the radio atop the fridge. The unmistakable chords of “Stairway to Heaven” filled the room. I told her that was the song we slow-danced to in the early 80s. I told her it was about drug addiction. (It is, right?)
I said I didn’t know what to write on Medium. She said, “Write about dancing to Stairway to Heaven in the early 80s.”
I said I didn’t think I remembered enough about it.
But it’s incredible the things you remember. It’s quite possible I never slow-danced to Stairway to Heaven in junior high or high school. I do remember the feeling of standing against the wall and watching others do so, however. I do remember the longing in the song, and in my heart, as I watched green-eyed Jeff Jenkins from Texas dance with a girl. I remember the boy in seventh grade who wore light blue corduroy OP shorts I couldn’t tear my eyes off of. I remember Dave Skvarna who called me “SS” at PE for “Sex Symbol.” I remember being confused by that.