“It was because outside my window, my friends would be playing street baseball,” wrote Douglas, of Hyattsville. “I was never into sports. But the sound of yelling and laughter was like a lullaby to me. I loved to be lulled to sleep to that sound. It was the sound of happiness.”
Bill Griffiths understands. “For me — especially as I’ve reached my mid-70s — there is nothing more joyful or heartwarming than the sounds of neighborhood children playing outside,” wrote Bill, of Annandale. “Their squeals, laughter and shouts announce that the world is okay, and that it will be so tomorrow.”
Robert Linden and his wife live in Northwest D.C., the oldest and longest residents on their block. The pandemic has changed the neighborhood’s school-day soundscape.
“We enjoy the small children’s voices when they exit their ‘homeroom’ brightened by their Zoom classes to stretch their legs, shout for joy during recess and lunch breaks,” Robert wrote. “Someday we will move to a retirement home and we will miss the joyous shouts and laughter of these young children.”
Tom Prelovsky of Laurel said that as a child — and then as a teacher — his favorite sound was a snowplow scraping the road. Wrote Tom: “That sound usually meant schools were closed for the day!”
While we’re on the subject of winter, John Menocal of Annapolis loves making fresh tracks in the snow on his skis. “I almost hold my breath as to not interrupt the soft flow of the sound,” he wrote.
There’s a warm-weather corollary from the District’s Tom Martella, who adores the sound of “a canoe paddle gliding through lake water in the otherwise, absolute quiet of a trip in the wilderness.”
Chuck from Columbia, grew up in a Southern Illinois town situated between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. An excursion steam paddle-wheeler, the Delta Queen, traveled up and down both rivers.
“It had a steam powered organ — a calliope — that was inimitable,” wrote Chuck. “As it came upon or left the town dock, the organist always played. We could hear it for miles. Imagine a steam locomotive whistle ‘pitched’ just right, tooting ‘Oh! Susanna.’ Whimsical!”
The District’s Katy Daley said that before the pandemic threw schedules off, she enjoyed hearing the gun and cannon salutes wafting from Arlington National Cemetery, courtesy of the Presidential Salute Battery of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, a.k.a the Old Guard.
Wrote Katy: “We would always stop what we were doing and listen because they reminded us of how our hometown hosts ‘official Washington’ as part of our everyday life.”
A spokeswoman at the Old Guard tells me that after a three-month hiatus, the platoon has resumed training. It’s authorized to fire from 7 to 8 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday from two locations inside the cemetery.
Sallie Bell’s family moved a lot, thanks to a father who was in the Army. “To this day, the sound of tractor trailers on the highway during their night runs reminds me of that wonderful time,” wrote Sallie, of Waldorf. “The sound of their wheels on an otherwise quiet night was soothing to me. It meant either new friends and adventures awaiting or sometimes joining my father at our new home when he had to go ahead of us.”
Two years ago, Martha E. Powers and her husband stood on a vacant lot in Lake Frederick, Va., about 45 minutes northwest of Gainesville, with a salesperson from a community they were considering moving to.
“As we scrutinized the scrawny Virginia pines at the back of the lot, we heard it: a distant rooster crowing,” Martha wrote. “The community backs up to several farms, and we found the rooster’s crow charming. SOLD!
“Nothing says ‘You’re living in the country’ like that cock-a-doodle-doo.”
Lovely sounds, all. But Ramona from Annapolis had a different thought. What about awful sounds? Some people experience a condition called misophonia: They detest certain sounds.
“It’s what happens to me when I hear the crinkling sound of a chip bag or any bag made of similar material,” Ramona wrote.
Oh boy, I can think of a few in our house. My Lovely Wife and I have different sounds that make our skin crawl. What sounds drive you crazy? Send the details to me — with “Bad Sounds” in the subject line — at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.