Time softly sifting like sand in an hourglass is a lie. It shifts in spurts, thrusting us forward unexpectedly, whether we’re prepared or not. I think about the changes that have come in my lifetime, mostly technological, and just thinking about it makes me motion sick.
It used to be we had to find a pay phone in order to call home and check on the kids when we were out on a date. Then Dave, because of his work, got one of those first generation cell phones. It looked pretty much like a masculinized princess phone, attached to a box inside the car with a typical telephone coiled cord. A funny little antenna was installed on top of Dave’s puny old Toyota. A friend once told us how incongruous that looked…the latest hip product being installed on an old subcompact car. Antenna’s for cellular telephones were usually exclusive to shiny little sports cars or Bentleys. For Dave it was purely functional. It cost dollars per minute to use it, so he only used it for work and we still looked for pay phones to check in with the babysitter when we were out. Wireless cell phones didn’t become available to the average cost conscious American until our kids were almost grown, less than 10 years ago. I can only remember one time when there was an issue with our kids and cell phones (maybe this is where forgetfulness is a blessing). Annie was falling in love with that cute boy who lived in Centerville and they apparently had many a late-night conversation via texting, because we received a $300 texting bill one month. I guess we had a limited text plan at that point. At 10 cents a text it adds up pretty quickly. She ended up marrying that boy years later.
This little creature has come of that union, and .he is priceless…so in the grand scheme of things it was a pretty cheap bill.
Our first TV was a massive piece of glass and metal, the curved eye blinking on slowly as the tube inside warmed to the electrical current behind it. The pictures were black and white, with fluttery shades of gray. I well remember our first color TV. It had a wire attached that led to magical brick-like device they called a remote control. You didn’t even have to get off the couch to change the channel. Now, when we’re watching a show and our cell phone rings, we pick up our wireless remote and pause the show.
I remember also the first time I felt air conditioning. I still get a mini-thrill when I walk into our house and feel cool air, the clean aroma of my hickory floors brushing against my nostrils, my skin whispering “Thank You, Lord!” on hot summer days. Our friends the Nelsons had air conditioning in their home when I was a kid back in Pittsburgh. How we loved driving out to the Nelsons in our old air-conditionless station wagon, our heads leaning as close as possible to the open windows in the car, using the motion as an evaporative cooler against our skin. At the Nelson’s nice new house we got to play with good friends in that amazing non-sticky, sweet smelling conditioned air! On the hottest most humid summer days we stayed till the sun went down, finally retreating to our old tutor house, opening every window and door late at night, begging the cooler night air to come in and stay a while.
One summer, when I was tiptoeing on the balance beam of adolescence, we went to Idaho for vacation. Dad took off with the car and we were left stranded in Idaho. School was starting that week, 2500 miles away, and we had no way to get home. Through a miraculous gift of a loan from a banker who knew the value of her father’s name, mom was able to secure a loan for a brand spankin’ new car. A Charger. With air conditioning! And, unbelievable as it was to us…an eight track tape player to boot! We pooled our pennies and bought a tape of Shirley Bassey in a truck stop bargain bin. I remember sitting in the back seat of that car, the sun sparkling through the read window, the smell of new leather and the mellow voice of Shirley Bassey in stereo, a small satin-trimmed blanket from Aunt Mae tucked under my chin as we crossed the heart of America in our air conditioned car. It was the most empowered I had ever felt, and looking back on it, this was probably the beginning of our independence as women in a less than ideal family situation.
Now days I carry my music around with me. On my phone. With no cord. I download the songs I want through the little sliver of a computer that sits on the top of my desk. When I was little my sister Sue was a computer programmer in Pittsburgh. She punched little chads in computer cards that fed information to a massively large machine that took a huge building to house. My little laptop holds multiple times the storage that machine did. It houses all my music, all my stories, all my pictures and my addresses.
There is nothing as constant as change.
I think of my mother, who, as a young girl, warmed her shoes by the old cook stove, slipped them onto her feet and ran out the door on chilly winter mornings, running down to the intersection of the dirt roads near her house, and waited for the school wagon to come pick her up. And I’m not talkin’ a station wagon. I’m talkin’ a horse and harness, a buckboard and a slatted wagon bed with benches along the sides. I watch our neighborhood children disembark from the school bus outside my kitchen window and wonder what amazing changes they may be writing about in 40 years.
Seriously, I'm really not that old. It's just that the world is spinning so fast! So much change, if you let it, can really throw you off kilter. That’s when it’s best to simply look up. Up…where, if the night is clear and the moon is dark, you can see those old stars just a' twinkling away: Unchanged and eternal.