She leaves a voicemail saying, “Hello, it’s your mother.” Yes. Got that.
Well-meaning aside, it’s realistically been at least 18 years or so since my mother and I finally connected on the phone without a landline. And I politely encourage her to not only turn up the volume on her phone and not leave it in her car, but give her tutorials on emojis.
I had to laugh to myself for the umpteenth time yesterday when I received yet again her voicemail. Despite encouragement to just say, “Call me back,” I get the obligatory, “Hello. It’s your mother.” I need no introduction, really. I know her number, her voice and her phone number that shows up on my tiny mobile phone screen.
Every time. For whatever reason, she is compelled to remind me that she is my mother.
Which got me thinking: with technology, there’s a burgeoning lost art of leaving a proper and polite greeting. First, in my lifetime anyway, there was the invention of the telephone, now taken for granted. My siblings and I often competed for phone time while awaiting an anticipated call from a prospective paramour.
And then like a miracle, my parents bought a phone that Dad mounted on the kitchen wall – command central – and better yet, it had an extra long cord that if you timed it just right could reach beyond our kitchen to a hallway that had a door we used as a privacy barrier. That phone cord became so stretched it’s a wonder that it never became disengaged from the phone itself. Many a conversation happened on that kitchen phone.
And never did we imagine that you could someday actually “leave a message” with the next best invention: the answering machine.
Does anyone still have a manual rather an electric version? Miss those beeps and flashing signals that indicated someone missed you? My mother in law up until only a few years ago still used a tabletop answering machine until we coached her on electronic voicemail options.
Then came awkward but prestigious bag phones (a status symbol of sorts at the time), replaced by car phones and eventually cellular phones. And they revolutionized how we all – and expect – to communicate.
Our oldest son was denied that privileged possession of a cell phone almost two decades ago because I was stubborn like my parents, thinking it was a luxury instead of a necessity. For a very long time, when I’d ask him (from my landline phone) where he was and remind him how close to curfew he was, chances were he was using one of his more privileged classmates’ phones.
Eventually, of course, I caved and allowed him one. Next thing we discovered was the (then) astronomical cost of this new thing called texting. Data charge? What?
And just last week, son number two during a candid conversation reminded me that he also was the last kid on the block to be given a cell phone. We laughed about how large and cumbersome it was, back in the day of Nextel, now obsolete. They were more a walkie-talkie than a proper means to have a private conversation. Flip phones, Blackberries became the norm, and you were also special if you had one.
By the time the other two kids made it to high school, we again caved in, and now we had six people on a family plan. Somehow, it was an afterthought regarding why we needed them as a luxury. It was a given.
Ultimately, we all know what happened. Phones are attached to us at the majority of times. Now we text our kids and Facetime our kids who have kids. The babies stare at the screen, and ironically, they’ll know us better from that kind of face time for the most part because we currently can’t be there otherwise.
Meanwhile, my mom keeps identifying herself on voicemail as my mother. I shouldn’t try to correct it because she’s far more formal or traditional than the rest of humanity is these days. My own kids don’t even leave messages; I just see “missed call.”
So I guess I need to savor Mom’s “It’s your mother” voicemail.
Next time you call your kids, it’s actually a pleasant thing to leave a voicemail (if they ever check it) to remind them that you are their mother or father. Phones are annoying at times, but they are also a lifeline to our ever-moving family members.