Sunday, June 7, 2009


This photograph was taken with a cell phone then sent winging across the internet to me. It’s my grandmother's telephone. The number on the dial is still hers. Though if you call, she won't answer, because at ninety-nine, she lives in a nursing home. Nor would she remember that was her number. I can almost feel the warmth of my grandparent’s hands radiating from the receiver. They would have had that phone number probably since the late 1940s. It would only have had the last four digits; the prefix and then the area code would have been added later as the population increased. I remember when they had a party line. My grandmother was put out when the phone company told her that she couldn't have a party line anymore and would have to pay more money. I should probably disconnect it. Though my grandfather died sixteen years ago and then my grandmother lost her mind, to disconnect the phone and give up the number feels too final a disconnect from them. This doesn't make too much sense, because I don't visit my grandfather's grave anymore. I used to take my grandmother there and fix the grave site up every year. I would clip the shrubs on each side of the head stone, plant a couple of geraniums and smell the thyme creeping through the grass over my grandfather. Sometimes I'd lie on the grass and say things to him which amused my grandmother. But since she's been 'gone,' I don't bother anymore. I’ve heard that grave sites are rarely visited longer than three years after the burial anyway, but I still don't want to give up the phone number. My daughter, the one who wants to be an astronaut, the great-granddaughter of the phone owner, took the photograph. She regards that telephone as a Flintstonian antique and can’t get over the dial. It's as inconceivable to the budding astronaut that a phone line could be shared as the concept of the cell phone would be to my grandmother. There was a time when she might have found it fascinating that there was such a thing and beyond belief that it could include a camera. I'm not sure she could ever have grasped that additionally, the photograph wasn't on film and was sent through space to my house onto a computer. She has lived through the development of television and its integration into practically every home in the world, space travel and the invention of the computer. However, the telephone evolution would have been too much for her to handle. Communication was never her strong suit.


  1. Definitely...the Quiscalusa quiscula/The Birds/Hitchcock...same thing!

    I remember our rotary phone! It was a wee bit more was a wall phone!

    I have to say that visiting my parents' grave has been an ongoing thing for me. My Mom, who was only 39 when she passed, loved her flower garden so I make sure there are flowers there for her to see from heaven. My Dad liked to look at flowers but had horrible allergies so, being he was in the service and so loyal to the USA I make sure he has a flag present for all the National holidays. He always loved his flags. It gives me some peace to do this for them.


  2. I saw the phone and thought it was neat to still have it. I well remember when we had a party line with two others growing up. It was pretty neat. David should remember who they were. Ask him to compare notes over the fourth with the siblings. Of course Mike will say he is the only one right!!!!!

  3. liked everything,but,the red(orange) poppies!

  4. Nice story about the telephone. My brother, who died last fall, still
    answers the phone down in Scituate where he lived. I hope my
    sister-in-law doesn't change that. The phones in my day were the tall
    ones that looked like black daffodils and the piece you held to your ear
    dangled from a holder on the stem. In high school I had an afternoon job
    as a telephone operator. I sat in front of the board, plugged in one
    jack and said "number please" and then lifted up the second wire and
    plugged it into the requested number. I was not very good at this.
    Sometimes I plugged into an already conversing couple and rang into
    their ears. Sometimes I disconnected before a conversation was
    complete. Once a sad little boy called, weeping, and saying his mother
    was not at home, where was she? Sometimes calls came in for my father,
    who was a doctor, and I rang my own home number: 77 The old pros on the
    line could jiggle the connections in such a way that they could listen
    in on conversations without being detected. I was too scared to try
    this. Long distance connections were very complicated and I dreaded
    getting those. At breaks I used to drink coca colas with chocolate
    syrup in them. Boy those were good. My supervisor said, Jo, you may be
    very smart, but you're a lousy phone operator. It was hard being an
    automaton. But I persevered to get money for college, riding my bike the
    two miles to the office every day in the summer.
    What is the green leaf at the bottom with red seaweed like growth?

  5. Good grackles, great grandy phone piece.