The glider beneath me is swaying gently as I watch my son play in his water table. It’s early enough that it’s not yet too hot, and we’re savoring every bit of sunshine we can get.
“Whee!” He cries, “SPLASH!” The boat he’s holding sloshes in the water over an imagined jump. “Look out!” His giggle is infectious, and I squeal when another splash sends droplets onto my feet with a plop.
“Oh no! Your feet wet, mama?”
I grin, “Yes, but it’s okay. What is the boat doing in the water today?”
“It zooming! See? ZOOOOOOOM!” Another splosh, and I watch as waves and ripples follow the boat. He picks up a cup and makes it into another boat in the water. “ZOOOOOM! CRASH!” I look up from my coffee as I hear the boat and cup collide.
Water droplets land in my empty coffee cup with a plink. I set down the cup and stand up, picking up a small whale toy from by my feet.
“Here comes a whale! Look out!” I cry as I ker-plop the toy into the water. He laughs richly, from his belly, I smile. We play a little longer, splashing, crashing, and plopping until we’re both soaked through.
Inside, in dry clothes, with a fresh cup of coffee in hand, I pad into the living room, sit on the soft carpet, and pull out some books. Without meaning to, I’m continuing our theme of onomatopoeia. The books have buttons to press to make noise: dinosaurs and farm animals.
Oscar sits down and lets out a roar when he sees the dinosaur book. “I a DINOSAURUS REX!” I file this away as a malapropism I never want to forget. We open it, and he presses the button, bumpy like reptile skin. We roar together like a t-rex, then grunt after pressing the bumpy horny wing on the stegosaurus. Over and over we play at being dinosaurs.
Next comes the farm animal book. He loves to moo like a cow and baa like a sheep. The Noah’s Ark toy comes out, along with its animals. We read and let the furry buttons make the animal noises as each animal boards the ark. He pushes it across the carpet, making splashing noises as he goes.
He stops and looks at me during his play, “More noises mama?” I go to the bookshelf and pull out more books, ones without buttons that make noise. Books that tell us the sounds I’ve become adept at making over the past year. I open the one about things that go and beep like a bus, zoom like a rocket, and whoosh like an airplane. His arms stretch to the sky as he imitates me, and the pages are thick in my hand as we talk about the different sounds we hear.
He hands me another one, about trucks. Filled with textures to touch and feel, this time we chug like a tractor together, and talk about the tractor that lives at his grandmother’s house. The farm loader makes a brrm sound, and he giggles as we brrm together. Excitedly, when we get to the page with a steam roller, he tells me all about how it squishes and makes the road flat and smooth. Running to the door he asks if we can go see the steamrollers that line the street we drive every day, to and fro.
Instead, I suggest we get out the vehicles that line the hearth and turn the living room into a city filled with vrooms and beeps. Toybox dumped, we put together the train and pull out the tractor. He zips around me in a circle with two school buses filled with Little People toys. I laugh when he beeps at each stop he’s created along the bus route, and he directs just how fast I am to go with the red toy train, chugging along the track.
It occurs to me as we play that my life is filled with sounds like these. Zooms and beeps, rushes of wind and splashes. They form a backdrop to the everyday, and their sounds I’ve heard so many times I almost rarely pay enough attention to hear them. Imagining with my son forces me to stop and listen to the sounds we make. Reading about these sounds help us both see and “hear” new and familiar sounds.
Books about sound enrich our day of play as we roar like dinosaurs and float animals on an ark in the middle of a white carpet sea. A city comes to life on the coffee table with the vrooms of cars being pushed in circles, screeching as they stop at imaginary traffic lights. We add a fire truck to the game, pretending to be its siren as we push it around. With just a few books about sound, we’ve created a few hours of play to fill our morning.
Eventually I catch Oscar rubbing his eyes and yawning: it’s naptime. As he lies down to sleep I pause to listen to his breath, a soft whisper in his room, cutting through the whoosh of the air conditioner. His door closes with a click and I take a moment to appreciate the house’s stillness. It’s not quiet, but the sounds are familiar and sink into the background as I quietly begin to work.