The Sound of Silence

“Hey, Dad. This is banging good fun.”

As a kid, my house was noisy, very noisy.

I don’t know how my parents survived.

At probably the noisiest point, we were two teenage girls and three boys under the age of 10. The girls would stop spinning Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones and we boys would start blaring punk rock and then taking a whack at playing it ourselves in the garage, the eldest at one point on vocals, the middle one on drums and me the youngest on bass guitar. We never made it out of the garage, and that may have been a big reason why one neighbor started gathering signatures for our ouster from our leafy Brentwood Glen neighborhood in West Los Angeles and later threatened to take us all out, quite literally. It could also have been the skateboard ramp out front or our firework bonfires that ticked him off.

I can’t remember the specifics or even the noise.

We were just living and having a blast and the byproduct was a steady blast of beautiful childhood clamor replete with bike skids, hoots for goals scored and the hum of dozens of skateboard wheels racing down the sidewalks and jumping off of curbs and walls.

It was pure and joyous noise, and our faces said it all: dirty, sweating and smiling.

My three kids are starting to get into skateboarding and doing wheelies on their bikes and scooters, and I’m starting to remember the grimy delight – and the noise.

The trouble is that the noise is not as joyous on my aging eardrums. The hoots, hollers, screams and screeches can be followed by my vain reprimands of “Shhh…” and “Not so loud” and “Keep it down.” That happened this past weekend. I was awakened by the racing of scooter wheels, back and forth from the living room to the playroom and right past my ears on the pillow and then under the pillow. I got up and the kids beckoned, “We’re hungry!” I put on the coffee and they started playing cards on the kitchen table and soon were crooning out victory followed by, “Noooo! I won!” and a string of petitions for me to intercede. I said, “Shhh…” and “Not so loud” and “Keep it down.” Of course, my petitions to save my ears fell on deaf ears and the noise swelled.

I served breakfast and proposed a game: a silent competition.

They agreed and thought it would be great fun.

I said, “Go,” and my six-year-old son lost in the first second by saying, “I’m going to win.” The three-year-old swallowed her pancake and said, “No! I’m going to win.”

The eight-year-old, on the other hand, still has her trap shut after 30 minutes.

I think she’s trying to gloat because I lost the competition within seconds by laughing at the youngest two.

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