Whistler Mother

Rose and Music

This morning on my walk I was stopped dead in my tracks. Not by a snake (yeah, seen a few), but by a whistle.

Not that kind of whistle! It was my Mom’s whistle – one long, high note, followed by a lower tone. It sounded a bit like the opening whistle from the old “Lassie” TV show.

Let me back up.

Our neighborhood is filled with great cottages, unusual sights, and interesting characters. I had just passed the Slightly Skewed Ceramic Studios

Ceramic Studio

… with their whimsical sculptures scattered about and hanging from trees …


… just down the street from the “No Peein’ Off the Porch” house … when I heard “The Whistle.”

No Peein

My Mom was a whistler. She and Dad grew up in a time of whistling … and they were truly talented. They whistled for fun, to flirt, to exclaim, and to make music. Mom and Dad could whistle in harmony. Just mention the song “Yellow Bird” and they would launch into the prettiest rendition you’ve ever heard.

Mom developed a “special whistle” as a way to call us kids in from neighborhood play. And there was one steadfast rule: the minute you heard her whistle, you were required to holler back “Coming” and head straight home. There was to be no lollygagging. You had to answer her right back … or you were gonna get it!

Until this morning, I’d never heard anyone else use Mom’s whistle.

I looked down the street, and a woman stood on the sidewalk in her robe and fluffy slippers, whistling exactly the way Mom used to call us.

So I asked her, “Who are you whistling for?”

“Ratchet!” she huffed. “My rascally black cat who didn’t come home last night, and I’m worried. He drives me nuts, but I still care about him. I am his Mom after all!”

I told her that I’d probably just seen Ratchet around the corner, sitting in her neighbor’s back yard, with his paws over his ears doing the “la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you” chant.

Boy, was he gonna get it!

Cat in yard

Once I asked my Mom why we had to answer her whistle immediately. It was a little embarrassing to yell “Coming” in front of your friends. She answered, “Because I care.”

I didn’t get it then … but I get it now.

So here’s to all the past, present, and future Moms out there. Happy Mother’s Day … and thanks for caring.

Peace and Love,

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

18 thoughts

    1. Thank you Andrea. That’s great about your Dad! My sisters and I still talk about our parent’s whistling ability – and strangely, none of us seem to have inherited the skill. Or maybe it’s just that we haven’t cultivated it … but we sing to ourselves all the time, so hopefully that counts! All the best, Terri

    1. Hi Rusha, The short answer is no, but not for lack of trying! I used to practice, but instead of sounding like the songbird my Mom imitated, I just sounded goofy! LOL! All the best, Terri

  1. Mom always said that the canary they had when she was growing up was her inspiration….and that it would only sing when the vacuum was running! Many, many years ago “Morning Edition” did a story on Mom and Dad’s type of whistling. I remember it vividly because it was my alarm that morning, and I rose out of a sound sleep believing with all my heart that Dad was still alive. Talk about poignant. Thanks Terri for sharing one of Mom’s most enduring gifts.
    Sister El

    1. Oh El, What a great story – and just like Mom and Dad – you are a true, modern-day storyteller (please blog). I always love and cherish your stories, because as all of us Sisters know – you are “Database!” Thanks so much for expanding the story … and Happy Mother’s Day – Mom to 3 gorgeous, smart, funny, opinionated daughters. Much Love, T

  2. Really fun blog, Terri. Don’t know if I have ever known a woman who was into whistling. Your mom sounds like a character. I can picture your mom and dad doing yellow bird. And the flirting? How did that work? Was it a cat call type of whistle?

    1. Thanks Curt! My parents were hilarious because the flirting would start with a cat call … then variations on a cat call (involving lots of trills). This exchange would be followed by “eyebrow insinuations” (John Belushi style) then lots of giggling and whispering. It was too cute! ~Terri

    1. Hi Laura, I just love all these “musical mothers!” I know that my first Mother’s Day without my Mom was really tough, but great memories like these really keep me going and smiling. It sounds like you have some happy memories, too. All the best, Terri

  3. I wish I could hear these whistles, but your descriptions are beautiful. I feel as if I’m eavesdropping. My father liked to make noises and wiggle his ears. I wish I had video. My mother is pretty dead pan. Her expression usually says, “Oh, you…”

    I can’t whistle or blow bubbles from bubblegum and am so envious of those who can. I’m a face-maker to make up for my lack of whistling ability. It’s a poor substitute.

    My husband whistles for our cats when he puts out food, but of course they would be there in an instant anyway. It’s fascinating that a cat will come home when called.
    Mine are never let outside on purpose, so I don’t know whether the hearing one would come when called. My deaf cat has escaped a couple of times. Most of the time I’ve been able to grab him. He’s white. There are a lot of owls and other predators in the neighborhood. (I’ve seen a bobcat, too)

    One rainy night when we had friends over for dinner, we heard ungodly screeching. I looked up and saw our deaf cat outside at the deck door. He must have slipped out when my husband carried a tray of food to the grill earlier in the day when it was sunny. I’m glad we didn’t realize he was gone, or I would have been frantic. Our other cat visits when we have friends, but the deaf cat just sleeps through any party — unless he’s hungry.

    Sorry to be so long-winded!

    1. Thanks Catherine! I can wiggle my ears, but I can’t whistle worth a darn. But I can make great dolphin noises – to the total delight of my nieces. I just love your cat stories – I can’t believe you have a bobcat in your neighborhood. Yikes! I’m sure your cats give it a very wide berth. My family had a deaf dog with similar behavior – sleep, eat, ear scratch … repeat! 🙂 ~Terri

      1. We haven’t seen the bobcat recently. Her three kits were in a tree overhanging someone’s deck for a day or two and then their mother fetched them. I worry about the cats I see occasionally out in the neighborhood because of all of the hazards, including flying golf balls.

        I can’t wiggle my ears, either. I didn’t inherit that trait from my father, darn it.

    1. Thank you Tricia. Although I played in the band and orchestra (bassoon and saxophone), I never learned piano – or accordion! My Mom was the star in that area. And few could surpass her whistling prowess, so I had to learn to excel in other areas – like travel! 🙂 ~Terri

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