Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sounds, Sights and Smells

Planes, trains and ...marching bands

I have said matter where life takes me for home base, I hope that I can always hear at least these two sounds from my home...the sound of a high school band practicing/playing and the sound of a train whistle.

Both of these bring back pleasant memories that are very soothing to me.

As for the band requirement, all three daughters were in marching band and/or drill team.  Our youngest daughter was in a competitive marching band for two years.  I've always maintained that band should be considered an athletic sport for the amount of skill and practice that it requires of its members - and competition band only served to cement that thought for me.  But that's another day's topic...

Practice typically began early for the girls - well before school returned to session.  And hearing the sounds of the band practicing as they echoed across the hills was very comforting to me, for whatever reason.  The two high schools that I attended were never big enough to have a full scale band, so I didn't get to experience the fun and bonding that came with being part of such a group.  But I do know that the kids seem to have plenty of good memories from their experiences. And so did I, as a band parent.  There were times that the band, including the halftime show, was the only reason I went to the football games.  I have since come to love football, especially college football with my OSU Buckeyes, but that, too, is another day's topic...

The train whistle sound is a little easier to track (no pun intended) for me.  As a very young child, my newly divorced mom took my 6 year old self, and my 7 year old sister and 5 year old brother on our very first train ride. It wasn't the train at the zoo, or at nearby Idlewild Park, but rather a full blown, cross-country trek to the west coast from the train station in Pittsburgh PA to visit 'California Grandma', my maternal grandfather's Pasedena mother.  It would be the first of three such rides - another one to CA and the third one to Michigan (which seemed like just a little jaunt when compared to the days-long trip across the US to California!)  I don't remember a lot about that first train ride, but I do have Mom's grainy, bumpy 8 mm movies from the trip to bring back some memories.  And I remember the whistle, mostly because we heard a lot of it in the 3 or so days it took to traverse the country.

California Grandma (known by her birth certificate as Catherine Cooney) was a little whisp of a white-haired Irish woman who lived in a little 3 bedroom ranch in Pasadena, her home complete with backyard lemon and fig trees and something totally foreign to my young mind - an in ground sprinkler system.  I remember her stepping out on her front landing in the morning and turning on the magical sprinklers that would send water in every direction - just waiting for the three of us little ones to run through and squeal.  And I remember that Uncle Junie (so named because he was Ralph 'Junior') worked at the nearby Budweiser Brewery.  Uncle Junie never married and so lived with California Grandma.  He walked with a noticeable limp from what we were told was a bone infection that he received when he was kicked in the leg by a classmate as a young boy.  This injury provided the much needed tale of caution that we ALWAYS heard if (when) the Leight children ever dared to kick one another.  

Another memory that has stayed with me is that California Grandma had a COLOR TV!  I recall watching the NBC peacock come on and I remember seeing the test pattern that would appear at the end of the night's TV programming. Thinking back, I don't think I would've been able/allowed to stay up that late to watch late night TV, but it must've been our adjusting to the east coast/west coast time difference (and maybe a touch of spoiling by California Grandma). I also associate the scent of Dial soap with visits to her house.  Funny how sounds and scents and sights trigger such memories from long ago.  

Here in Ontario, OH we can hear both band and train sounds handily.  We live less than a mile from the high school, where we can easily hear not only the band practicing, but also the sounds of Friday night football and the halftime shows. And a train runs close enough to be able to catch the whistles, particularly on those nights that I happen to be up around 3 am.  And luckily, there are trains that still travel very close to (well, within a mile of) our Columbus condo, so that requirement is met. Not so sure about the band down there, but since Columbus is home to The Ohio State University and The Best Damn Band In The Land, I think I might be able to get my fill of marching band practice music as well.

Your turn:
Any childhood sounds or smells or sights that bring back pleasant memories to you?


  1. Too many food smells to count...although when I heated up Kirstin's cinnamon rolls yesterday they really made me feel like I was home! And the sound of an electric razor always reminds me of Dad shaving. :)

  2. ah, yes, cinnamon rolls...heaven! It is with deep regret that I must say that dad did not get one of them this time...

  3. Ah yes... I gave you two just to "be nice" but was secretly thinking/hoping maybe he would decline as he usually does with sweets, and you would get to savor both :D