Every Sunday, for the past 17 years, my mother’s garrulous voice has greeted me at the end of the phone line. I will have just waken up, most likely to a sunny Californian day, while she will be getting dinner ready, in her cozy apartment in Italy, the curtains drawn, the tv humming in the background. For 17 years, her voice has embodied my connection to a home that is no more, to a family than hangs by a thread and a love that has survived intact the wrath of my teenage years and my many moves.
The slight shrill in my mother’s “hello” will let me know immediately that everything is fine, while a more subdued and lower tone will presage unpleasant news. A brief humming just before she speaks, her trademark hesitation, conveys trouble, somebody else’s trouble typically, while the mention of my full name prefaces a question she is loath to ask.
That voice that praised me, scolded me, lulled me to sleep, admonished me and, above all, loved me is the voice I hear in my head every time I think of my mother. It’s part of my being as much as my own voice belongs to me. Someone told me that, when a loved one dies, the first thing we forget is the sound of their voice. No photograph can give it back and, while recording devices can preserve a sound for posterity, they are a far cry from accessing a memory at will as we go through our day. If all goes according as nature intended, my mother will die before me and the morbid thought of the loss of those Sunday phone calls has crossed my mind as I watch the two of us age.
After much prodding on the part of both her daughters, we convinced my mother to spend a couple of months in Los Angeles with me, rather than her customary two weeks. As I write or make dinner or even while I putter in another room, I can hear my mother softly singing or talking to the dogs as she stubbornly cleans and irons and tries to make herself useful. It’s hard to resist her happy sound, not to yield to the high tones or the broken notes, especially when she ventures outside to shout for the dogs, who probably disappeared chasing a rabbit or a squirrel. The concern I hear in her calls is the same she couldn’t disguise whenever I tiptoed through the front door, late at night, back from another revelry in my college years, letting me know she had waited up (although she always denied it in the morning).
And then the more placid “Good night” or “Here you are, you scoundrels” will follow, her worries assuaged by our return, everything and everyone once again where they belong.
The sound of her presence has brightened my house and made those who inhabit it, human and canine, happier and calmer. I believe it’s because the melody of her speech is irresistible and has the power to draw us in. It will be a much emptier shell when she leaves – the dogs’ snorting, the bubbling of the fish tank and the humming of the fridge will go back to being my day’s soundtrack. Until I reach for that phone and wait for the long, ringing tone of Italian lines and the shrilly “Pronto” will let me know everything and everyone is where they belong.
65 responses to “THE SWEETEST VOICE”
This is just lovely. I longed for my mother and grandmother as I read it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us.
this is too much for me, I can’t read those lines without feeling a clench in my throat. beautifully written darling
Beautifully written! I’m sure your mom is deeply touched (if she reads English).
She doesn’t. I try to explain some of what I write but I probably don’t do a very good job. Sometimes it’s easier to speak from the heart when the other part is not necessarily listening in.
Thank you both. Coming from the two of you, it means a lot
Excellent. My mother is in India while I am in the USA. I know exactly how you feel.
Thank you. Now that so many of us have become more nomadic I am sure it’s a feeling shared by many. We probably don’t fully think of the consequences when we uproot ourselves, which is probably a good thing or we might not do it. I was blessed with a mother who never made me feel bad whenever I picked up and went.
Yes, I was so excited to see the picture of the telephone which meant both of us had been Freshly Pressed! I loved your post the day it was published and am so pleased my appreciation was reinforced by WP!
ti scrivo in italiano perchè è meglio così. Mi hai fatto venire il nodo alla gola pensando alla voce di mia mamma che è relegata nella mia memoria ma che non sento e che sta nella segreteria telefonica di un vecchio telefono che non oso buttare.
Non avevo mai immaginato che non me la sarei ricordata…
Grazie a te. Lo so il vuoto che c’e’ in te per la perdita della tua mamma ed e’ un vuoto che non riesco neanche ad immaginare
I am so glad my sister shared your blog with me. I am an instant follower. You inspire me. Thank you for sharing your stories and adventures. “The Sweetest Voice” made me cry. I also cannot imagine a world without my mother.
Thank you Melinda. Your sister is one of my best friends so, by extension, you are a friend of mine. Have to go check out your blog right now
This a beautiful post – reminds me a lot of my phone relationship with my mother. Congratulations on the FP!
Thank you! and thank you for letting me know! I had no idea until I saw your comment. Am so excited!
Bravo! Excellent post and very well said….indeed, there is no more a comforting, welcoming sound than your mom’s…
(lol) voice. (I got ahead of myself with that whole hitting enter thing!!)
Thank you. It means a lot to receive all of your comments, especially because it was surprisingly hard to write
There really is nothing more comforting than a mother’s voice. Beautifully written. Really made me want to see my mommy too. Bravo.
Do you know when you are sick and there is only one person you really want? It’s been so long since childhood, yet I still crave for mom when fever strikes
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I loved this post.I talk to Mom almost everyday on the phone and she is only a few minutes from my house.I can’t imagine not hearing her and seeing her.Thank you for reminding me of me blessings.
Thank you for saying that. I checked out your blog and it does look like you are very blessed indeed!
Lovely post. Yes, mothers are a real blessing that is for sure, seems like they love us no matter what. Feel free to come to my blog and leave a link to your blog in comments on any of my posts. http://www.bradstanton.com My post for today is really gross, about vampires, but only true stuff, I think.
Thank you – I just checked your very insightful blog and nothing wrong with vampires (and I still go for gross on occasion..)
A lovely tribute. Congrats on being FP.
Thank you. Love the meandering and matriarch together, such a great definition of you who must be (besides a Tasmanian devil – sorry, I just couldn’t resist. Always wanted to see Tasmania
A nice post, which fully deservers “Freshly Pressed” status… congrats!
Thank you! I appreciate your taking the time
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What a wonderful and heartwarming post. It made me miss my mother more.
Thank you. I hope you miss her because she is far….and not gone
Oh my gosh…you cause me to miss my mother. Thank you.
Thank you. What beautiful art I found on your site! some of it very moving
Wonderfully written! I make it a point to talk with my mother on the phone every week. As I get older I treasure it even more – especially I lost my father four months ago. Not a day goes by when I don’t wish I could still hear his voice and counsel. Thank you for that wonderful essay!
Thank you. Losing our elders might be part of the cosmic process but doesn’t make going through it any less painful. Sorry for your loss
That was truly lovely. It made me cry and feel deeply sorry though because I never had the chance to hear that sweet voice for so long.
Thank you for sharing something so personal. By the way, if you had met me in my early 20’s, I was painfully shy. Not that you would ever know now. I used to live in my head until I realized that if I wanted to get ahead in my career, I had to get over the shyness hump. I enrolled in an acting class – standing in front of a bunch of people pretending to be a tree was one of the most humiliating moments in my life but I always went back to it whenever I needed the strength to speak up – it could never be that bad!
This is absolutely lovely.
Thank you Melissa. And thank you for writing on Todd Akin – the stupidity of it all is mind boggling
Beautiful and poignant. And I was just talking to my Mom a few minutes ago. Very lovely – it is the best word for your written musing. Congrats on being FPd!
I was slightly disappointed on not getting FP on this DP challenge, but you really deserved it. You know you have not written about your mom, you have written about all moms of the world out there, You made me miss my mom terribly!
Thank you Ali. It only took me two years to be FP! I am sure you will get there in much less. And keep the madness tight…
Thank you! Look forward to reading about Maine. And I assume you didn’t kill each other
“when a loved one dies, the first thing we forget is the sound of their voice”
Very true. I loved my Grandmother but I can’t recollect what her voice was like. It is only a faint echo to me right now. I thought it’s just me and felt a bit bad about it. Now I know better 🙂
Sweet post 🙂
Hi Vandhana. Thank you for your nice comment. Saw that you just finished to read Anne Frank and am looking forward to your comments. I read that book at 13 for the first time and many times afterward. It inspired me to keep a journal that I still write to this day!
My father has been gone for almost 10 years and I still miss him–every day. He was the one who established behavioral benchmarks in our family, the parent none of us wanted to disappoint, the one most of us sought to emulate. To this day, I miss the sound of his gentle laugh and his indirect way of giving advice. Thank you for a very special and heartwarming post.
Hi Wanda, what I love most about blogging is the opportunity to “meet” diverse people I might not have a chance to bump into in daily life. I loved how you summed up your life and thank you for your lovely comment.
Heartwarming post. This made me miss my mother. Thank you.
Thank you Myrtle for taking the time to write a comment
A wonderful, beautifully written post. Thank you so much for sharing. I talk to my mother almost daily on the phone since Dad passed away almost 10 years ago. I can still hear his voice in my head–but it is a quieter echo of what was. We do have some videotapes, but I agree that it is not quite the same. I will say, though, that on the rare occasions that he speaks when he appears in my dreams, his voice is exactly the way it was. It must take the relaxed subconscious to bring those audio memories back. Enjoy your mother’s visit.
Thank you Caroline. I have a few precious days left and trying to make the most of it!
Heartwarming…that’s the perfect word. It made me remember how I must spend time with my father. I’m glad you have your mom over for a longer time. And the courage to write an honest post like this…that’s really something. =>
Thank you for mentioning courage. Somehow, it was a difficult post to write.
HO LETTO E HO PIANTO….PER TUTTO QUELLO CHE NON PUO’ PIU’ ESSERE…
Beautiful. Very you. And very Anna-Rosa.
Grazie Dony. Sento del rimpianto nella tua voce. Solo per la tua mamma?
This is so beautifully written, powerful in its most sincerest voice. It has evoked emotions in me.
How sweet it is…
Reblogged this on chaotiqual.
Thanks for reblogging! What a beautiful site you have
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Many thanks for composing “THE SWEETEST VOICE | The Accidental Chef”.
I reallywill surely be back again for alot more reading through and
commenting here shortly. Thanks a lot, Louise
Thank you Louise. I have since closed that blog but am writing for a different one, in partnership with my best friend in S. Africa, which you can find at http://www.campariandsofa.com
What a beautiful post. Having children ( now adults) I really get the cncept of everyone being where they belong…and safe. Louise