I Like That Story Mug sitting next to a journal with hand written notes on top of a wooden table

A Great Story For February

The purpose of this story is the sound that goes with it. A story and sound that began more than 90 years ago.
Let me set up the scenario for you:
This is a picture of my grandparents’ dining room set, which was a wedding present they gave each other when they were married in 1931. Libby and I acquired it through an accident of perfect timing: they were looking to downsize at the same time we had moved into a 130-year-old house with an empty dining room.
Grandpa was a farmer of the intellectual bent. He would scrub up at the scarred porcelain farm sink, eat supper, talk about the news of the day and then retire to the living room, where on quiet winter evenings he would study the one luxury he allowed himself, a subscription to the Wall Street Journal.
These details are provided by my Aunt Irene, the lone survivor of the family, whose memory of current events slips a bit but whose memory of the farm days is as sharp and vivid as a photo album. 
And here is the snap shot I want you to see:
The three girls have walked home from school, helped prepare the meal, washed the dishes and cleared the table. The sun is set, supper is over and their mother now moves on to another type of work. The daughter of a vaudeville singer, she is prone to humming while she works. She works alone, saying the girls have more important work to do, which I will describe momentarily.
“Daddy,” as he was affectionately called, is done for the day. Except for the school board (he was the head of the school board and as such, was involved in various and sundry activities—from playing donkey basketball (broken ankle) to graduation ceremonies (his signature is on my mother’s diploma)), his only other activity was reading that beloved Journal front to back.
Now the dining room table is cleared, the girls gather around it, school books open, quietly doing their homework. The rungs of the chairs and stretchers under the table are worn, the varnish rubbed off by countless socks (bare feet were not allowed).
My mother is the oldest and smart as a whip. She both studies and advises the younger sisters. Other than the humming of their mother and the rustle of a newspaper or school book, it is quiet.
“No radio?” I ask.
“Nope,” says Aunt Irene.
“No trips to town, no ball games?”
“Nope. Not very often.”
I imagine what that might be like. And now I look at this very same table differently. I refinished it after we got it, the stretchers and rugs revarnished, ready for the next generations. Now we eat at it about seven times a year. It’s not fancy for the period and maybe not the style you want in your house, but that’s okay, I’ve always been a story-over-style kind of guy, so it takes up valuable square footage in a place of honor.
And the story it shares isn’t vivid or powerful. It is small and quiet.
It is a sound.
The sound of peace and quiet, the end of a hard day’s work and the quiet companionship that comes with it.
As I write this, the TV is yelling in the next room. Some kind of urgent chase scene, it sounds like. My phone has lit up for the third time bzz with some kind of urgent post, bzz someone commented on someone’s status bzz and it wants me to know.
But since it is February, I am a little bit smarter. In this quiet month, I think I will read a book and shut off the TV. I will let the phone charge up in another room, it can pester me tomorrow. I have a fireplace, one of those fake electric ones, but it does the trick. The grandfather clock (made by my other grandfather) ticks and tocks away–nothing electric there, just gears and weights and chains and chimes.
The lamp pools light onto my easy chair and I read a bit, or sometimes daydream, or sometimes just look at the fireplace.
The dining room table sits in the shadows in the next room, reminding me that sometimes the best sound in the world is silence. And February is a perfect month to enjoy it.