Monthly Archives: December, 2012

Post-holiday musings on yellow phone booths (or: How my grandfather didn’t have a phone for a long time).

before smart phones, cell phones, and other species of personal phones: the phone booth!

Christmas has passed, on quick and quiet paws. My parents and I went to see my grandfather for the holidays; I can’t even remember the last time we did this. I usually simply spend Christmas at their house. The last time I’d actually seen my grandfather was a year and a half ago: my grandmother’s funeral. When I was little I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, yet somewhere between moving to the other side of the country and growing up, there was only little time left.

Long story short: I was really looking forward to the trip. Because of my grandfather, but also because it meant getting away from everything else for a couple of days: restricted internet and cell phone use, please! Merry Christmas to me. However, the 21st century quickly caught up to me. As much as I’ve been trying not to give in: Santa replaced my somewhat crappy vintage phone with a brand new smart phone. Gosh, thanks Santa! I kissed my old phone good-bye (and, possibly shed a tear or two) and welcomed the new one into my life. My software’s never felt more updated.

As my dad tried to explain the basics to me, my grandfather seemed somewhat bemused. He looked at the little device and shook his head. When I still worked at the jobsite, it took me half a day just to place a call, he said, only collect calls back then, and there was only a phone at work. He shrugs, worked fine for us. The government had been too distrustful, cheap – or simply too incapable to provide phones for every household, that’s his explanation anyways. And then in the end (when the government didn’t make these decisions anymore but the big companies did, much like anywhere else), I even got a phone before you, my mom smiled.

I remember how we used to walk to the yellow phone booth together to call my grandparents. How I sat huddled between the phone and my mother as she was talking. I don’t remember, though, how, before the yellow phone booth, my mom had to go to the post office to send a telegraph (like that one time when our car broke down and we couldn’t go see my grandparents. Because it was a Saturday, of course, and the one repair shop was already closed). In times of text messages, e-mail, twitter and the like, it’s hard to imagine such a thing.

All of this makes me thankful. I’m thankful than the idea of sending a telegraph somewhere is only familiar to me from books and movies. I’m thankful than I’m able to prevent people from having a heart attack when I don’t show up when and where I’m supposed to in the blink of an eye. I’m more than thankful that I’m able to communicate with people spread out over many countries (continents even) so easily.

Yet, I’m also thankful for some perspective: I put my smartass phone away at once – it’s back to restrictive internet and cell phone use. Because between moving to the other side of the country and growing up, there’s too little time anyways, and with the important people right in front of you, for a while, you don’t really need a phone, I guess.

A small blue car.

Image

Daily prompt: Dear Mom.

Prologue

Once there was a single mom. Once there was a little girl. They lived in an apartment. They had a small blue car. Their neighbors were Russian immigrants who had fled from the war in their country. Every morning the single mom took the little girl to the kindergarten that was just down the street, next to the shop that was closed down most of the time because it burnt down twice in only a couple of years – no one ever knew how or why but no one really wondered either because things just were what they were (and often they weren’t good). That’s what it felt like anyways.

 

Family (of sorts)

When I was little and imagined being older and having a family, I always imagined being a single mom – just because that’s how our little family was set up and I simply assumed that’s how things were supposed to be. I also imagined having a pageboy haircut and wearing leggings, just because it was the beginning of the 90ies. Now that I am older, I hope that things will be different. Although being the only adult in the family automatically grants you absolute remote control, I wouldn’t mind sharing it with a second grown-up person around. Also, I don’t watch that much TV anyways. I certainly hope I won’t be wearing leggings all that often – there are probably many other ways in which I’ll be able to embarrass my future-children, the least I can do is spare them that one.                  

Then again, I guess we weren’t a two-people-household. Not really. There were three other families living in our apartment building and all of them were babysitting me, sort of. Okay, basically I just knocked on their door and they let me in. There was this older lady who lived just next door and had this amazing chocolate supply hidden in her bedroom closet and also an astounding collection of board games. There was a young family: they had a daughter who was maybe 3 years younger than me (which is a lot when you’re under 6); she was toddlering around which means she didn’t do much (let alone talk to me) but I really liked to spend time with her. Also, she had really cool toys. And then there was a middle-aged man who was still (or maybe: again) living with his mother (which didn’t strike me as vaguely off-norm back then because, thankfully, I was too little).                                        

Sometimes, my mom would take me in our small blue car to visit friends in another town close by. This was all very exciting for two reasons: one, we took the car, and that car really was exciting in and of itself. It was light blue with moss green seats (it’s true, I swear) and it was made of recycled material (also true, cross my heart) that included cotton. This may have been friendly on the environment, yet: if you back your car out of the garage with the door open and then hit something (like my mom did once), the door isn’t dented – it tears apart (and has to be glued and stapled together and doesn’t look so nice after). Two, my mom’s friends were (and are) amazing people with two children of their own so me and my mom both had someone to hang out with – someone our own age group even, which made conversation a lot easier.                                                                                 

Every now and then, my dad would make an appearance after all. Sometimes, I even spent an entire weekend with him, which – I admit – was always great. One of these weekends when we had breakfast together, he made me cereal, Froot Loops to be precise; he boiled the milk (I hadn’t seen anyone do that before) and the bowl was still steaming when he put it down in front of me. It was delicious. Mostly, though, he would only promise to spend the weekend with me and then back out a day before he was supposed to pick me up. Mostly, my weekends remained frootloopless. One day when he did show up and took me to the zoo, I tried to remember his first name – I tried really hard and I just couldn’t; it really bugged me. Eventually, after the giraffes and before the hippopotamuses, I asked him. I think this must have upset him but he told me anyways. This was the last time I ever saw him and I still wonder: maybe I shouldn’t have asked him; maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference anyways. My mom never told me why things turned out the way they did. She didn’t like to talk about him and I didn’t want to upset the one parent I had left.

 

Interlude

Once there was a little girl. Once there was a single mom who was tired of being just that and married a man who promised to love her, for better or worse. She got rid of her small blue car because she was tired of looking at its patched up door – a makeshift. She wanted something new, something that was in one piece. They moved far away because it keeps you from looking back when you can’t see what you’ve left behind.   

 

Dear Mom   

There are many things I’d like to tell or ask my mom but never do. Mostly, I just want to ask her about my dad. From time to time, I need some information about him to fill in some official form (they always ask you about both parents – assuming it is not a problem, of course). Usually, it’s basic stuff: birthday, address, job situation. She still doesn’t like to talk about him, even when it’s just generic like that. I can’t imagine how she’d feel talking about what she can’t look up in a folder stored in the back of her cabinet.                                                                                                                                        

I understand. I’d like to tell her that I think I understand. My dad left because of another woman, just like that; he has at least one son with her (if not more; if he’s still with her; maybe he has other children with other women). My mom had to work hard to make ends meet. She had to work all day. She was sad; I remember her being sad anyways. Our apartment building didn’t have central heat so there was a stove in the living room of each apartment. We heated by coal which meant that every so often a truck would dump a huge load of coal into our backyard and my mom had to shovel it into buckets and carry it into the basement just to carry it back into our apartment when we needed it. Apparently that’s why I got sick often. It was still too cold (all very Dickens, right?). These are just random things I remember.                                                                                                               

At the same time, I don’t understand. I’d like to ask her all these questions because I don’t understand. It is what it is: he’s still my dad, about 50 % of my genes. I’d like to know whether he is really a bad person or whether he’s a good person who made some bad decisions (or not even that – just some decisions that hurt, maybe he didn’t mean to). I’d like to know. I need to know. I still miss our small blue car with the patched up door. I still miss my dad and I don’t know whether he even deserves it.     

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I'm Michelle. This is my blog. I write about women and fatness, expound upon semi-coherent thoughts I have in the middle of the night, and offer tough love to those in whom I am disappointed; they are legion.