There is something comforting and attractive in what is familiar to the senses. Each of us is tuned in to notice what says “home”. Usually this comes from the elements that surrounded us as children, so the music of the familiar is initially composed by our family.
Many times during my childhood we travelled from our western haven in Wyoming eastward to family in West Virginia. Great-grandma, grandma, and my aunt’s generous family were the focus of our visits. The visits were summer excursions into the dialect and rhythm of Appalachia. The singing of cicadas, the chorus of songbirds, and the language of my family wrote an indelible melody in my subconscious.
As a child you do not understand or comprehend the way that your extended family influences your life. This hidden influence was brought to my attention in a local restaurant on our first house hunting trip to Morgantown. I could feel the change in my demeanor when I heard our waitress speak; the familiar surrounded me and I quite suddenly felt relaxed.
“She sounds like my cousin.” I told my husband when the waitress left our table.
“It’s the way she speaks.” I couldn’t accurately describe at the time what it was in her voice that reminded me of my cousin. I have now pinned it down to a few sounds that strike the familiar notes. Most prominent is the short “a” that sounds like “awe”. This vowel pronunciation makes “grandma” sound like “grandmaw” and easily slips its way into even the shortest conversation.
There are also certain terms and colloquialisms that I pick up in my sojourns about town. When heard, the statements almost always cause a giggle to escape me and I hope that the speaker doesn’t take offense to my chortle. Typically the grocery store is where the most familiar phrase comes within earshot and it usually has to do with a shopping cart. “Junior, go get grandmaw a buggy,” I overhear and an image of my own grandmother pops up, along with a stifled chuckle. I really should try to get this reaction under control since it probably looks like some sort of strange spasm.
I catch the nuances of sound faster now. Maybe I walk around more aware, listening for the harmonies of language that fill the local dwelling places. Each restaurant, market, and shop a place to imbibe in human sound. Every outdoor venue presents the opportunity for orchestral compositions from fauna of earth and water and sky. My ears and mind work together to knit the memories of childhood into the fabric of my current place in life, weaving something comfortable into what is new.
In knitting together the past and present, I sift through each experience collecting tidbits for the project. One such experience was last fall when my aunt came to visit our new house. She brought family photos, home canned vegetables, and the melody of a dialect song from my childhood, all things that warmed the space between our new house’s walls to begin to make it home.