I have pretty vague memories of spending time at the home of my Great-Grandparents in Tampa during 1970 or 71. My dad was in Vietnam and had moved us back to be close to my mom’s family in Florida, and I think my mom was happy to have the help by letting a few of us kids spend the night over on Otis Ave from time to time. I was only in maybe the first or second grade but the things I remember most involved the sounds of the neighborhood and the wildlife.
Besides the normal assortment of birds, there were some squirrels that would come up onto the front porch and take peanuts from my great grandfather or if he wasn’t out, they would jimmy open a drawer on the porch where the peanuts were kept.
In the mornings, I can recall sitting out on the front porch and even though we were in a neighborhood of homes, if you shut your eyes, it seemed like you were out in the country. I suppose back then, there weren’t a lot of air conditioners kicking on or little Japanese vehicles with those goofy sounding mufflers to spoil the atmosphere.
I’m a firm believer that sounds and smells can take you back to a different place in time and for a few minutes anyway, this Sunday morning, I felt like I had been transported back to those mornings in Tampa.
Did I mention that my great grandmother wore a wig and at night she would take it off for bed and that really scared the bejesus out of me?
One of the huge selling points on our house was an upstairs balcony overlooking the front yard. But even though we moved here in late ’99, my wife and I had never bothered to go sit out there and read the paper while enjoying morning coffee.
I’m not sure what I expected, but I do know that when I get up in the middle of the night to walk out on the back deck and let the dogs sniff around for skunks, Mr. Possum and the occasional raccoon, I can hear traffic off in the distance; usually those obnoxious Japanese cars with the goofy mufflers, or perhaps the equally obnoxious sound of the rumbling exhaust on my son’s truck. But either way, the sound from the front of the house was totally different.
We sat on lawn chairs, equipped with the Sunday Express-News and fully charged cups of coffee and let the little dog come out to sniff around. I expected to see some traffic or maybe a lawn mower and weed eaters getting started up, but as I sat there reading a review of some important biography in the SA Life section, there was nothing but just a calm silence interrupted only by an occasional bird flying by, or a squirrel taking up a better position on a tree to see what we were doing on the balcony.
For just a brief moment, as I raised my eyes from focusing on the paper in my lap, I gazed up out into the trees of the front yard and I could imagine the calm morning air at the start of a beautiful Florida day. For a moment, I thought I could her my great grandfather working on some project in his shop behind the house.
Like some sort of suppressed memory it was as if I was hearing nails being bent after every few blows with the hammer and an extraordinary number of “Oh, Shits” coming from the back.
“Granddaddy, is that you?” I closed my eyes to take it all in.
And then I realized it was my next-door neighbor Eric, hammering on the fence in his backyard.
Oh well. I guess it’s the small things that make living in Silver Creek nice.