When I was in the first grade, my mother summoned me to our kitchen to take a phone call. “Hello?” I chirped, the chunky ‘80s receiver the same size as my blonde head. My classroom crush, a boy named Jamie, sang back in his best Stevie Wonder voice, “I just called / to say / I hate you,” and hung up.
I never really forgave the telephone for that. I was a decidedly un-chatty teenager, my dorm phone gathered serious dust in college, and if unused cellular plan minutes were tangible things, I could swim in mine like Scrooge McDuck in his vault of gold coins. There are researchers stationed in Antarctica who use the phone more than I do.
Big deal, right? Who makes old-fashioned calls these days, anyway? More than 40% of Americans don’t even have land lines, and many of us use our smartphones primarily for things like texting, shopping and taking grainy photos of our dinners.
But the thing is, I left my mother, father, and sisters back in California when I moved to New York a decade ago. I see them once a year on average, and sometimes as seldom as once every two years. That would be understandable if we were distant or estranged, perhaps, but my family is great. They’re smart and funny and supportive, and when I neglect to call them — which, unless it’s a major holiday or someone has died, is most of the time — I miss out on all of that, and on supporting them. I need to pick up the damn phone.
So I’m going to kick-start this Calling-My-People-at-Long-Last initiative by phoning my mother every day for 30 days. Why Mom? For starters, she’s the family member most likely to answer on a regular basis (unlike me, she doesn’t screen her calls), so I won’t be able to half-ass my commitment by just leaving a voice message. She’s an artist, and gives excellent advice on everything from what I should make for dinner to how to approach a new project.
Finally, to be perfectly honest, I’ve watched too many friends lose their mothers to disease and age in recent years; while my own mom would probably beat me at arm wrestling and is obviously immortal, those losses have left me feeling a bit like I did when I dropped her off at the airport after she helped me move into my first apartment. As I pulled away from the curb, I squeaked a weird, quivery “…Mama?” at her absence in the passenger seat. She’s a mere phone call away, and to squander that luxury feels unconscionable.
Can mother-daughter communication dialed up to 11 for a month usher in a new era of regular contact? Will Mom enjoy the calls, or change her number? Will Cingular think my phone was stolen? We shall see!
Follow Lauren’s progress with her mom and phone at @lmo_nyc.