98. Holding the phone next to your heart

The orange phone has made it into previous posts. We inherited some kitschy items with the cottage, and in 10. Clara’s Kitsch, I conducted a poll to discover readers’ favorites. The orange phone won by two votes. Several readers suggested we hang it in the bathroom by the water closet.

Mr. H.C. doesn’t remember having this orange phone at his childhood home; he says their kitchen was turquoise and they had a black wall phone. So Clara and Joe must have picked out the orange phone especially for the 70s orange decor of the cottage. But they transferred their telephone number from that black wall phone. 627-5590. It’s the number I remember calling (even though I wasn’t allowed to call boys…)  It’s the number on the orange phone.

I still have a nice square foot section of this wallpaper to frame and hang somewhere…

Found this photo on E-Bay -- it's for sale for $60.

Found this photo on E-Bay — it’s for sale for $60.

The phone at our childhood house was a green desk phone that sat right outside the kitchen. It was the number one public area of the house, and there was no such thing as a private phone call. Mom would sit at the chair with her morning coffee and talk to her friends. We three girls would sit with our cokes and talk to friends in the evening. I remember when our original phone number (1696-L) was changed to 627-5804, but we only had to dial the last five digits because everyone in town had the same first three numbers. My dad transferred this number when he moved to his apartment in town — that was his phone number until the day he died…

We had a party line because we lived in the country. Alvin, the teenaged boy on the next hill always hogged the phone; he and his girlfriend would do their homework in silence every evening from 7 until 8:30. By the time I was in high school and talking to Mr. H.C. on the phone,  the party line was gone and the only people who complained were my sisters, who were waiting impatiently for their turn. Dad would just shake his head and mutter, “What if I want to use the phone sometime?” We would just laugh, because Dad hardly ever talked on the phone. And if he needed to make a Very Important Call, he just said, “Get off the phone.” And. We. Did.

TelephoneCandlestick1930sto1940sMy grandparents had a “candlestick” phone (627-5305) on a telephone desk outside their kitchen. This was an antique phone even when I was a kid. My grandma Carrie had suffered hearing loss from diphtheria as a kid, and she always wore a hearing aid — the old fashioned kind that had wires and a transmitter that amplified sound. When she talked on the phone, she held the ear piece next to her heart where she wore the amplifier. It looked odd, and I was fascinated by watching her talk on the phone. She explained one day, after I was caught staring, that they kept the old fashioned phone because it was easier for her to manipulate. Then she smiled. “I only talk to people I care about,” she said. “And I carry their words next to my heart.”

I love technology (mostly) and I love my IPhone. And here in the teens of the new century my phone matches my kitchen as well.

And chances are I would rather text you than call you on the phone. Saves time, u no. But listen to what we are saying here. Are fifty-seven texts better than one conversation? We are communicating more and saying less, reduced to emoticons and abbreviated phrases.

Orange phone in living roomThe orange phone was hanging around on the wall in the living room until we took it down a few weeks ago when we moved the ovens and began the rehabilitation of that wall. I think I will hang it up again somewhere in the cottage — maybe next to that framed section of kitschy kitchen wallpaper — just for memory’s sake. But it will be a silent phone, only good for remembering.

Why is it that I can remember those old phone numbers when I can’t even remember the phone number I had at my last house. Oh, well, it MIGHT have to do with advanced age, but I think American society used to have a permanence that just isn’t there anymore. We cast-off, trade-in, move on.

It’s a throw-away world. Our phones. Our phone numbers. Our words. Sometimes I would be better off just to shut up. To listen. To call someone up just to hear their voice. And carry their words next to my heart.