I awakened to the steady murmuring of two male voices deep in conversation. I had fallen asleep after moving to the back seat of the Suburban to watch the movie “Ocean’s Thirteen” with my three grown daughters.
After a Sunday afternoon at the 90th Hommel reunion at Province Park in Franklin, we set out at 4 p.m. for our 1,200-mile family tradition of heading to northwest Ontario for a week of walleye and northern pike fishing and shore lunches. But this year was different in a variety of ways — for one, Steve and I realized that the opportunity for everyone’s schedules to continue to sync may be coming to an end. Secondly, we were taking our new son-in-law, Michael Tillman, with us.
Did I mention it’s a 1,200-mile, approximately 21-hour road trip? Imagine being trapped in the third seat of a Suburban with your beloved bride of four months, her sisters, two dysfunctional parents and a week’s worth of fishing gear.
Anyway, back to the two male voices deep in conversation. It was dark outside, but I knew as we traveled north that the maple trees along the roadway would soon be blending into white-barked birch and conifers. I could only hear bits and pieces of their conversation, but the regular back-and-forth of their low voices was soothing.
It brought to mind male conversations I was privy to be near — walking up to my Grandpa Ralph on his farm, when he had his foot propped up on the running board of his grain truck, surrounded by his sons (my uncles) Steve, Joe, Tim and (my dad) Frank. I was in middle school, and I stood next to my dad as they smoked or chewed on the occasional cigar and talked about the farm, basketball ... about life.
Of course I also loved the incessant eclectic kitchen conversation with my Grandma Hommel and many aunts, but there seemed to be something unique, almost sacred, in a men-only conversation. I noticed that when men talked to each other, enjoying the silence was an integral part of the communication.
I enjoyed the same deep-hum of conversation when I went camping after whitewater rafting in West Virginia when Steve and I were B.C. (before children) newlyweds. After a day of horseback riding, we returned to camp that night, and I turned in early but could hear the familiar lull as my husband and two brothers talked around the campfire.
Sometimes there would be a burst of laughter, then quiet, followed by a buzz of conversation.
If you’re with men you love and trust, the sound of their voices is truly peaceful. Like sitting next to a beehive and listening to the hum of honeybees buzzing in and out or the rhythmic cadence of railway cars on the tracks.
I remember the same cadence when traveling with a small group of women in India a few years ago. Our guides, whether they were speaking in English or their native Hindi, Jeevan and Daniel’s quiet conversations almost matched the rail car cadence.
I can only imagine the same calming cadence was present when a carpenter sat around a campfire after he invited his friends to “come have breakfast with me,” as shared in the last chapter of John.
Sharing a shore lunch of fish and bread over his open fire, I can hear the hum of men’s voices in the background of the lapping waves of the Sea of Galilee, when Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, brothers James and John and two other friends joined Jesus for breakfast and some significant guy talk.
Janet Hommel Mangas, the third of seven children, grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.