An Old Screen Door and the Creaking Floor Board

What 'home' means to me

Monday, November 22, 2010 - 08:31 AM

John Hockenberry's son Zachary at the family's piano. Zach says he knows he's home when he can smell dinner cooking. (John Hockenberry)

This week as we contemplate the holidays we've all been thinking about home. What is it? Where is it? We've been getting a lot of examples from you, and every one of them makes me think, how would I answer that question?

In my home, a big old 110-year-old house my wife and I have had for almost as long as we've been married, the piano is the center, where you can hear folks playing away on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Or banging away with five kids in the house, “Heart and Soul” is more common than Copeland any day of the week.

But what does my nine-year-old son Zachary think of as home? It's not a sound at all.

“The smell of dinner cooking. Every time we come home, there’s always something cook,” he says.

And it is those subtle background sounds of a baby cooing. Ajax is almost a year old now, while people move pans and dishes around in the kitchen preparing for a feast later this week, those sounds say home as much as anything.

I've been thinking a lot about the little sounds of home. When I was a little boy, there was a way the dented up old screen door would close that I can still remember — kind of a cymbal crash followed by a hiss then a thud as it closed. In our old house today, it would be the floorboard in the bedroom.

No sneaking through that bedroom. Or late at night, there is this symphony of sounds and pings as the heater kicks on and the pipes warm up.

So many times lying in bed hearing that sound while everyone else is asleep, the sound of my carbon footprint, the sound of the furnace keeping us warm. The sound of home.

Many things and all things say home these days, though they are difficult to get to say anything on tape. The sounds of my three pre-teen girls say home to me as well. "Dad what are you asking?  What do you mean? You don't know when you're home or something?”

And then my girls music hits the foreground and I know I'm home. Daddy superstar.


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