Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wait For The Beep

Beep. “Oh hello, this is just your mother calling. It’s 8:30 Tuesday night. I thought you’d be home. Just calling to see how everything’s going. I’ll talk to you later.” Click

The breezy voice projected from my car speakers, at once utterly familiar and yet not. I hadn’t heard my mother speaking in more than 10 years.

Driving to the mall a few weeks ago and hearing mom’s voice again was weird. She popped up on an old answering machine tape (remember those?) that I discovered while clearing out nooks and crannies in preparation for a yard sale last month.

Mom wasn’t the only surprise on this tape, which caught odd bits and pieces of my life circa 1989-1991.

There are messages from my old newspaper editors, colleagues and readers. (Just listening to them stressed me out!) And other ghostly voices – from an aunt who passed not long ago, an old friend I’ve lost touch with, a book binder asking me to pick up a long-forgotten job.

Most intriguing is a 10-minute conversation unintentionally caught on tape. My son is three weeks old and I’m talking to a work colleague (who? I don’t recognize the voice) about adjusting to motherhood, what’s going at the newspaper and how I hope to start getting some writing done “when the baby starts taking three-hour afternoon naps.”

Ha! Little did I know those long naps would never materialize. The eternal optimist shines through in my voice, pitifully, even as it is tinged with exhaustion.

“It’s weird, because this tape is just ordinary,” said my other baby (who did take three-hour naps on occasion, bless him), “but it means a lot because it’s old.”

That’s how I feel about a lot of things. Growing up in a disposable age with parents who valued the shiny and the new, I was the freak always longing for something old. Old houses, old heirlooms, old family stories.

I guess I never outgrew the feeling.


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  2. This is wonderful! You made me picture my old answering machine, the one that sat on the table inside the doorway to my Chicago apartment. I'd love to have those old tapes. Well, maybe not. Maybe some of the messages would make me cringe.

    But I relate. There are many new things that attract me but many old things I pine for as well.

  3. I grew up in the 60s when there was this fetish for the shiny and new and a rejection (at least in my family) of anything old and "dated." I really felt like a weirdo because I loved the small glimpses I got of old homes and old neighborhoods with shady old trees. (In our spanking-new neighborhood, even the trees were new and didn't provide shade!)

    It wasn't until I moved to Monrovia in the '80s that I found my peeps - other people who loved old stuff.