Daily Archives: October 23, 2002

Return of the Prodigal Mom, Death to the Telephone!

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Well, the girls did really well. Their mom was away since the break of dawn on Friday until midnight last night, and we all survived. (The answer to the question, “How many hours back is Phoenix?” turns out to depend on the season. It IS the mountain time zone, but they don’t observe daylight savings time. Go figure. 50 independent republics, forget that at your peril, as Bill Bryson warns.) She seems to have had a great time, though we didn’t really get to talk about it much yet. I’m not good on the phone any more, so we didn’t talk too much while she was away, and of course she was on her cell phone anyway. But in the days she was gone, we survived several meals, swim lessons, dance class, two Nutcracker rehearsals, two picture days, a trip to the Borders, and two different babysitters, virtually without incident. Plus, we got the cobwebs up in the window and threw up some orange Halloween lights on the porch. For $20 at the Target, I look like I’ve got Halloween spirit.
It’s always a delicate balance with moms . . . can’t do too well or they’ll feel unneeded, can’t let the place fall apart or they’ll be pissed off. There was enough mess in the kitchen for her to do some brusque straightening up this morning, but the laundry was all done (not folded, exactly), homework was taken care of, and the girls were clean.
But on the phone thing: scanning old negatives (still). Found some terrible 17-year-old’s idea of an artsy shot that turns out to actually be artsy, in that it really captured a representation of my life at that time. It was taken in my bedroom in my parents’ house, with the telephone (old heavy-duty Western Electric model, the kind that actually rang; rotary, of course) sitting on the carpeted floor, just inside the cracked-open door. It had to be there because that was as far as the cord reached. Next to the phone, propped up against it, my wallet, open to my girlfriend’s senior picture. We used to spend hours, hours every night on the telephone (she lived way on the other side of the city, miles from me, in another world). Hours spent just sitting with my back pressed hard against the door, just listening to her do things, chatting, complaining about her actual boyfriend (I was the slow-moving type — but I’m the one she still talks to, 25 years later), her apprehensions about college, problems with a mutual friend of ours, etc. etc. Hours. I lived for the telephone, lived for her calls.
When I went to college, my job at the paper involved lots of telephoning, and I think that’s when I started to sour on it. I started to dread the ringing of the phone. Now I spend much of the day on the phone. I hate making phone calls, I hate getting phone calls. For a while I was warming back up to it, but it is work. I love hearing from friends and family and people I want to hear from, but 9 times out of ten the ringing phone is a telemarketer or someone else I just don’t want to hear from. And so I don’t have that love affair with the phone anymore.
But this pretentious, silly little photograph I took way back in 1977 on my brand new camera, developed down the street in my friend’s darkroom — one look and I’m 17 again, big receiver pressed between my ear and the door jamb, dreaming away with a lovely girl on the other end.