Calling All Mothers

When I was a child, the members of my family shared a telephone.  It was a large, beige phone with a rotary dial that cradled a handheld receiver and it sat on a table in our family room.

It was a simple device.  It couldn’t direct us across the country, order our groceries or launch a nuclear weapon.  But it could make a phone call and that was good enough.


The procedure for using it was easy to understand.  To make a call, we picked up the receiver and dialed.  To answer a call, we put the receiver to our ear and said, “Hello”. To eavesdrop on the neighbor who shared our party line, we covered the mouthpiece with our hand, put the receiver to our ear, and hid behind the couch so my mother could not see us.

That was really all there was to it.

My dad, who had big hands, learned to dial with a pencil because his fingers often slid into the wrong holes on the dial.  My mother, who was a seasoned telephone user, learned to cradle the receiver between her chin and neck so her hands were free to flip through a magazine or dig through her purse to find quarters for the ice cream truck or swat the backsides of her children as they ran through the house. But those were skills that came with experience.  You could make a phone call without them.

When it rang, it did not set off a frenzied “Where can it be?” hunt.  We didn’t run from room to room to find it.  We didn’t rummage coat pockets, empty purses or throw the cushions off the couch.  And we never once followed the sound of the ring to the other side of the refrigerator door. We simply walked to the table and picked up the phone.

Sometimes I miss that old-fashioned telephone.  It was solid and dependable and very hard to lose.

My cell phone, on the other hand, is not hard to lose.  And it causes me all kinds of problems.

My family has threatened punishment if I don’t learn to keep the stupid thing with me.  That does not upset me terribly.  Frankly, I’m thinking, “What can they do?”

I suppose they could slap my hand and confiscate my phone. If they did that, they could no longer call me at any and every moment of the day to find . . . and pick up . . . and go after . . . and come get . . . and help with all the stuff they need me to find, pick up, go after, come get and help with.  That might tie their knickers in a knot. But, it sounds pretty good to me.

They could ground me.  That would mean I would not be able to leave the house . . . not to deliver forgotten homework to school for the twelfth time in five days, . . . not to load a 250 pound bag of dog food into a shopping cart with two bum wheels and wrestle it up and down the aisles of Walmart. . . not to put in a gazillion and a half “She’s a stay-at-home mom so let’s put her in charge” parent volunteer hours.  I’m okay with that too.

At the very worst, I figure they could put on their “We’re really serious!” faces and send me to my room for the day.  I would be alone in my room . . . to nap or read . . . in peace and quiet . . . without my Virtuous Woman Wannabe’s List of 700 Things to do Today.  Do they call that punishment?  Really?  Well, I say, “Bring it on!!”

So, here is the plan for me and all the other mothers like me.  I say we accidentally set our cell phones on fire, accept our penances without argument and spend the day in our rooms reading, napping, and talking to each other . . . on our old-fashioned, land-line telephones.


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