Oddchester: The definitive sounds of home

October 3, 2018

Various periods of our lives have been defined by the background sounds inside the Lange house.

Sure, the sounds have mostly been the voices of our kids.

Like the two months of laughter — and gasps of fear, and, sometimes, soft crying — from daughter Hadley’s room when, at age 9, she read and reread her first Harry Potter novel.

Or when daughter Emma, then 6, spent a month trying out her new kid catchphrase, “Oh, stinkers!”

Whenever anything went slightly wrong — say, we were out of ketchup — Emma would put her fists on her cheeks and, very dramatically, say “Oh, stinkers!”

Or the six-month period — from age 6 months to 1 year — when son Henry screamed from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Coincidentally, during that same timeframe, more and more work projects kept me at the office later and later.

Or the cheers of the family playing Mario Kart or singing along to “Delta Dawn” on our jukebox or screaming out answers to “Jeopardy.”

But, sometimes, when nobody’s talking, we hear a lot from our kids.

The snapping together of Legos.

Almost daily, from age 8 until 11, Henry would sit in a corner of the living room playing with a giant pile of Legos that he had brought up — in one of those giant plastic tubs — from his bedroom.

I say that as if to imply he would bring those Legos up — and take them back down — every day, but that’s not true. Henry brought that tub of Legos upstairs when he was 8. That corner of our living room was filled with Legos nonstop for three years.

The sound of Legos being dug out of that bucket and snapped together — sometimes for hours at a time — is very satisfying. It sounds like closure. And creativity. And connectivity.

The downside? You need only walk barefoot, once in your life, through a dark living room at 2 a.m. and step on a Lego. The sound produced then is not fit for children’s ears.

The snapping and popping of Slime.

Slime, for those of you who don’t have pre-teen daughters, is created by mixing together household items — like laundry detergent and shaving cream and body lotion — to make a sticky blob of goo. Which is why, for the last year, we can never do laundry. Or shave comfortably. Or why I can never have a smooth and moisturized body.

When daughter Emma, 11, makes slime in the kitchen, she kneads it on the countertop, which releases air bubbles and makes a rapid-fire sound, like gum snapping. We hear Emma’s voice as well. She announces the entire process as if she is on her own YouTube channel. Though there is no camera.

The honk, squeak, scratch, and boom of musical instruments.

Our oldest child, daughter Hadley, spent numerous nights teaching herself to play guitar and piano and ukulele. Every year, Hadley would try out for the Eagles Cancer Telethon. So, from early October until those tryouts in November, she would practice the same few songs repeatedly. After two years of rejections, Hadley finally received that coveted “yes.” Two years ago, Emma, 9, wanted to try out as well, so she spent hours singing Tom Petty’s “American Girl” with Hadley playing piano.

I heard “American Girl” more times that November than Tom Petty did during his last tour.

Today, Emma, 11, has started practicing the baritone. So now we get to hear that.

The clacking of Rubik’s Cubes.

In 2014, Henry, then 12, picked up his first Rubik’s Cube. He seemingly had one in his hands non-stop for the next three years.

If you’ve never heard a Rubik’s Cube being solved (or scrambled), it sounds like this: Clackity clack clack clackity clackity clack clack. Now imagine that sound for 12 straight seconds (Henry’s average solve time). Three hours a day. For three straight years.

That is an estimated 1 million solves and scrambles. That’s roughly 20 million clackitys. And 30 million clacks.

Admittedly, there were a few long car rides – say hours 10 through 12 during our twice-a-year drives to Michigan– when the cubing sounds were probably directly responsible for my eye tics.

He stopped cubing, a year ago, in favor of chess. But every so often, Henry will take out a Rubik’s Cube and do some solves.

My wife, Lindy, will say, “I miss that sound.”

And the Legos. And Hadley’s ukulele. And “Oh, stinkers!”

And maybe, someday, even the baritone.

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