I miss it now. I never thought I would. I didn’t think it registered in my child-mind, but there it is. It’s a sound of summer, one of many that occupy far corners of my memory.
It came back to me as I worked outside with a table saw, cutting boards to make supports for my tomato plants.
As I switched the saw on, the mean whistle-whir of my dad’s giant table saw came to mind. It was a sound so frightening to this little kid that it drove me upstairs from the basement where I was playing. I imagined its sharp-toothed blade breaking free and attacking me.
Then I remembered his hand-held circular saw and the noise it made. More subdued than his table saw, but scary nonetheless. I have one of those, too. Unlike my dad, I can’t cut a straight line with it for the life of me. I haven’t used it in over twenty years.
That’s when it hit me – the summer sounds those tools made when I was growing up. Sounds that are long gone now.
My dad, and the other dads in the neighborhood couldn’t wait for their weekends. They had come home from the war for good, bought houses and started families. They built careers and became part of the fabric of the world I knew. They made do with what they had and created much of what they didn’t have.
When the weekend arrived, they’d gather their tools and supplies, set up sawhorses, then measure, cut, and nail. They built swing sets and backyard forts for their kids, and sheds for their gardening equipment. They made fences, added porches to their homes, and made improvements to their garages.
Their song was the music they played with their electric saws and hand-held hammers. There were no pneumatic nail guns then. The “bang, bang, bang,” of each nail being driven home in the exact spot they selected for it punctuated their efforts to improve what they had, and tacked the memory of them in my mind.
One of them would hear the sounds of another working and set his tools down to walk over and visit – to see what they were making. That would lead to a little show and tell as they explained their projects. Often a little helpful advice was sought or offered before each returned to what they were crafting.
Those warriors of another age did what needed to be done to provide for their families. I miss them and the sounds they’ve left me longing for. Today, when I hear the song of power tools, it’s usually sung by those of professional builders or roofers – hired to do work once performed by homeowners.
Today, it’s not hammers. It’s nail guns. It’s just not the same.
I miss my dad and his contemporaries. The conversations they had over the fence when I was a kid were likely nothing of worldly importance. But I realize how important they are to me, and I wish I could be part of them now.
New sounds ring through my neighborhood now. In my yearning for the sounds of yesteryear, it could be easy to miss them. I’m glad I didn’t. They are the sounds of dads having fun playing with their kids, something my generation didn’t seem to enjoy so much.
The sounds of summer are different for sure – different but sweet on their own merits. The free time those hired nail guns provide couldn’t be more wisely spent, creating a new generation with sweet summer sounds of their own.