When I was a kid and I called a friend at home from my house it was a very intense process. Although I’m sure I did it prior to fifth grade my real memories of doing so begin at about that time. Phones in those days were complicated. There was no caller ID to announce who was calling and the phone itself was usually stationary and mounted to a wall. You considered yourself lucky if the cord of the phone had a long reach or had been stretched out through the years – that way it might give you the space required to have a conversation that didn’t take place directly in the kitchen. Cordless phones would soon become the height of sophistication but were yet to be commonplace, especially not in my house. Though it wasn’t a rotary dial, today that phone would be considered a relic. Both almond shaped and slightly almond colored (or maybe it was “bisque”?), the buttons were concealed inside on the receiver and lit up in a shade that can only be described as toxic algae bloom green. The number four continually stuck, which slowed me down considerably as I had approximately one friend and her phone number contained three fours.
My situation was further precarious because at the time my mom worked for a company where she needed to answer the phones from home on the weekends… I was far better off making outgoing calls then I would have been waiting around to receive them in the event they intercepted with a company slogan cheerfully stated by my mother upon answering. I can so distinctly remember the feeling of getting someone’s phone number and agonizing while trying to think of the best time to call them, rehearsing a “normal voice” and what I would say depending on who picked up the phone. If there was an older brother or sister involved and they picked up it was likely that I’d be hanging up. As it might be the case even if the intended recipient picked up the phone. Again this was before the time of tracing calls – you would randomly have phone calls come to the house and the caller would hang up without further indictment.
Big sister got the phone number of a friend from her class last week and she had planned on calling her but for one reason or another didn’t until last night. Watching her carefully unfold a piece of notebook paper with the little girl’s phone number on it and then rehearse, “Hi, this is first name, last name; from Nancy’s class at school. May I please speak with Nancy”? found me near tears. My girls have called family members and even a few close friends on the telephone before, but this? This was new. She was calling the house of someone who she knew only through school effectively blurring the line between her life when she was at home and who she was at school.
There are all different milestones that you see your kids hit that you prepare for. Growing out of diapers or making a new friend or having their hearts break at ending a friendship – these things you can begin to ready yourself for. It’s the intangible moments like last night though, that catches you slightly off guard and makes you realize that your kids are growing into their own people. I am not a “cool mom” – I’ll be the first to admit that I was nearby (within earshot) of her entire conversation, though I didn’t walk directly into her room maintaining some semblance of privacy.
Discussion focused heavily on homework and the electives of the day as I imagine many eight-year-olds would discuss should they find themselves on the phone with one another. But the confidence I heard in her voice when she was talking about her night filled me with pride. Before long she will want to spend even more time on the phone talking to her friends (or FaceTime or Snapchat or Space traveling…) and I will think back to last night wistfully.