Families are noisy. On any given day, put your ear to the front door of a family home and you’ll hear a predictable soundtrack: laughing, whining, stomping, hollering.
But none of these sounds rumble through my house. Rather, they may, but I can’t hear them. Because I can’t hear anything but this: Thwappety thwappety thwappety BAM! BAM! BAM!
My son is a drummer. An enthusiastic one. With beefy forearms and a double bass pedal.
Boogety boogety boogety CRASH! BASH! CRASH!
The kid, I’m just saying, is LOUD.
I remember the ultrasound when we first heard his heartbeat: a soft thub-thub, thub-thub, thub-thub. It was at once startling and reassuring, familiar yet miraculous.
But once he was born, the only thing that would soothe this colicky baby was a rolling groove. Swinging, bouncing, walking. Funk music, disco, reggae.
Then a sadistic relative (you know who you are) gave him a Fisher-Price drum set. Why he took to it, and not his Elmo guitar or toy piano, we may never know. Before long, another sadistic relative (it’s a genetic thing) eventually helped him buy a full-scale, take-up-half-the-garage, gleaming chrome drum set.
All those years of soccer teams and sailing camps, karate classes and cotillion lessons — he wasn’t especially excited about, or adept at, any of them. But this. This banging. This pounding. This full-bodied, wall-shaking whomping. This he loves.
Thwap thwap thwap thwap SMACK!
Now he’s 10, and I don’t see how he could have chosen a noisier hobby if he’d taken up chainsaw sculpting. There’s nowhere in our house I can go and not be rattled. Upstairs under the covers. Back office with the door closed. In the shower with shampoo in my ears.
His little brother finally had to learn to enjoy “Sesame Street” videos without actually, um, hearing them.
Even with a blanket wadded up in the bass drum and using brushes instead of sticks, his beats jiggle the frames that hold his baby pictures. They pulsate the window panes. They throb in my skull. At least the mothers of pianists, guitarists, and violinists can recognize the songs their little musicians are practicing, and hum along supportively. All I can make out is…well, you know what I can make out: Rocketa rocketa rocketa WHAM!
He’s in a band. Because he’s cool. So cool that he must wear sunglasses while practicing in the poorly lit garage. He studies drummer fashion, carefully considering the classic mohawks, tutus, and dog collars worn by percussion luminaries like Animal, of the Muppet band Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
He tries to convince me that drumming is good exercise. Hmph. “Wipeout” is decent exercise. Anything by Kelly Clarkson is not.
Band practice is at our house since his instrument is positively un-portable. Tween boys show up weekly to make neighbor-appalling noise, consume mass quantites of snacks, and leave empty Gatorade bottles littered on the floor. During breaks, they run screaming through my house or dash lunatic-style through our street before settling back into “Smoke on the Water” or Nirvana’s “In Bloom.”
Once, one of the bandmembers’ mothers brought me flowers. “What’s the occasion?” I asked. “Just…because you’re the drummer’s mother,” she said, with a sympathetic smile.
But every so often, when I stop to really listen — perhaps even shake my hips and strum a little air guitar — I’m struck by how good he is. The boy can lay it down. Funky and steady with a great ear, he’s a cymbal-cracking master of the same rolling groove that once soothed his poor, suffering soul to sleep.
Now if only it could have that effect on me…