She is Cappy Hall Rearick, book author, columnist, and Nominee for 2003 Georgia Author of the Year. Her website is: www.simplysoutherncappy.com
"Whistle a Happy Time"
Having taken its own sweet time, autumn has begun to arrive. This annual manifestation of nature makes me nostalgic. When the sun begins to slump behind trees more quickly each day, I find myself looking out the dusty windows of my past.
It is a late October afternoon. A cool breeze drifts down to settle for the night. I am with my friends not far from where I live. Smoke rises over the rooftop at the house across the street making my nose sting from the pungent smell of burning leaves. Like other normal small town occurrences, I barely notice the smell, the nose-sting or even the smoke. They all occupy a rightful place in my yesterday life.
This is the time of day I listen for Daddy’s whistle, as opposed to the ring of a cell phone. Microchips and fiber optics have not yet begun to govern our lives. There is one black telephone at our house with no dials or touch-tones. I can’t use it until after piano practice and homework is finished.
When I hear the anticipated whistle, I stop what I’m doing to listen for the second one. Daddy’s whistle is my signal to come home.
“Gotta go.” I say as I quickly peddle my bike down the street.
All the fathers in our neighborhood whistle for their kids to come home but they’re all unique. Daddy presses two fingers down hard between his lips and blows through his fingers. The “whew-ah-whew” has its own timbre, rising as it reaches its final “ah-whew.”
I recognize other whistles, but Daddy’s is the one to which I respond. He whistles twice with a full ten minutes in between. Time enough for me to stop what I’m doing and come straight home for supper.
The crisp autumn weather puts Mama in the mood to cook chili and a steamer of rice served with cold milk left in bottles at our front door before the sun came up. I sop up chili juice with crusty homemade bread lathered with Aunt Polly’s country butter. Eat your heart out, Parkay.
It is a ritual, this evening regimen. It is the way our family closes the door on another day. We say grace before supper; my brother and I wash dishes and try not to kill each other while Mama and Daddy read the evening paper. It all begins with Daddy’s whistle.
No doubt today’s cell phones provide easier communication between parent and child, but it can’t replace the feeling I get when my nose stings from the smell of burning leaves, when I ward off the afternoon chill with an old sweater or when I hear a whistle similar to Daddy’s. October is when I long to hear that special, unmatched trill, the unique whistle my Daddy used to call me home.