At ten minutes to five in the morning, the festive day commences amid much noise. The noise is more of less continuous during the numerous hours that follow. At some indistinct moment amongst all the hub bub, my son shouts at no-one in particular, “I can hear something.” This strikes me as a little of an understatement under the circumstances. As no-one pays him much heed, he repeats the sentence for everyone’s benefit. Beneficial or otherwise, he grabs me by the hand in a splendid display of ‘hand leading’ and off we clop to nowhere in particular. Once we are on the landing, mid-way up the staircase, he slams on the brakes unexpectedly. Our collision is bumpy but soft, “oopsie…..sorry Mom.”
“That’s o.k. dear………why are we here?”
“Hmm yes it is a bit quieter over here isn’t it?”
“No! Can you hear it?”
“Which noise?” He splays a fingertip on the wall and looks at it meaningfully. Horray for joint attention. Like many a housebound parent, I keep a close inventory of every stick and stone in the house. I am familiar with every squeak, crack and whine in any cornice. I am so incredibly skilled at this task I can even tell what has broken merely by the sound, even though I may never previously heard the sound of any particular precious item smashed before.
I await enlightenment.
He nods his head towards the artexed surface, the one with the odd hole, scratch and tide mark at a three foot level. “Put your thing on it!” he commands.
“Put my what on what dear?” He models for me, as he puts his shell like against the wall, since the word for ‘ear’ has escaped him. I stand next to my son with my ear stuck to the wall as his eye balls bore into mine, “can yah hear it now?” I hear nothing. I cannot hear anything because I have my ear on a wall. “Listen!” he barks as he places a finger to his lips. I listen. Suddenly I hear it too, all sorts of unfamiliar yet familiar noises that I cannot for the life of me identify.
“What is it mom?”
“I’m sure I haven’t got the foggiest?” I only hope that there is insufficient room for a mouse, or mice or a nest of mice with many, many little relatives. He looks at me with an expression of vague disappointment until he has a much better idea, a brilliant solution to his problem, “I know! I ask Dad!” he abandons me on landing in search of someone far more useful, who he finds at the bottom of the stairs as they collide, “oopsie, sorry Dad.”
“That’s o.k. No damage done. What’s going on here then, you’re missing all the fun?”
“He wants to know what that noise is, the one in the wall?” I summarize with a hint of sarcasm and a tad of obtuse.
“Oh that’s just the vibrations.”
“You know, the noises outside are amplified, like traffic, cars and the like. It’s the same as when you put a seashell to your ear.”
“Of course Mom…..like dad said.”
“But there isn’t any traffic. It’s Christmas day.”
“Maybe not down our street, but we’re only a few miles from the motorway.”
“He….he…..he means freeway mom.”
“Oh thank you dear.”
Go on……..…try it……..…..stick your ear to an outside wall and tell me what you hear?