Friday, March 1, 2013

20 years ago today

Twenty years is a third of my life so far.
Twenty years is the tiniest of geologic-time blips.

Twenty years ago I was a senior at Lewis and Clark College. A senior in college with five children and an unhappy marriage. Hanging on.

Twenty years ago I didn't have a cell phone (no one did) or email (again, no one did).

I was a senior in college, majoring in English, and I had snagged a prestigious spot (in English-major circles) on the editing board of the college literary magazine. Ooooh. We met once a week, on Monday afternoons.

I had five children and I was a senior in college and I was on my way to the lit mag meeting but I stopped at a phone in a corner of the student union to call home. I didn't have a cell phone (no one did), but I knew about this phone I could use for free (just dial "9"), so I called home to check on the kids.

Mothering-by-phone. Make sure they had a simple supper underway, sort out any sibling conflicts, make it look like I was still being a mom even though I was a senior in college with five kids at home.
(And an unhappy marriage.)

No one had cell phones.

Twenty years ago it was a different world, a world where you couldn't always get ahold of someone, even if you needed to. I could walk across my college campus at five o'clock in the afternoon, and not one of my children could call me. Not one. I was so sure that everything was fine. I was just calling home to check in. What was the worst that could happen?

Remember telephones? With curly cords? Attached to the wall?
The alcove in the student union was painted gray. The telephone and its curly cord was attached to a gray wall.

The phone rang. Rang. Rang. Rang.
The phone was finally answered by an unfamiliar voice. Family chaos crisis chaos crisis chaos crisis.

I didn't have a cell phone. No one did. My mind went gray and blank. Like the wall.

On my way to the parking lot, before I climbed in the car and drove to the hospital and my daughter, I stopped at the room full of lit mag editors to tell them I couldn't make today's meeting.

On Tuesday, the next day, (twenty years ago tomorrow), I bought a pager.
Two weeks later my unhappy marriage imploded.

It's so true--isn't it--that you just never know...
You wake up in the morning, you make your plans, and still, you just never know...

I guess what I'm trying to say is this:
The world has changed a lot in twenty years, and so have I.
You might say this was all a long time in the past.
But in some ways, it has only been the tiniest of blips.
In some ways, it could have happened yesterday.

4 comments:

Polly @ Helping Little Hands said...

You've had a lot of ups and downs in the last 20 years, eh? You did the best you could. I don't know if this makes you feel better or worse...but I'm not sure exactly which of multiple crises this essay refers to.

Dorothy said...

I remember. Only 20 years? Seems like longer. :)

(I used to stretch the long curly cord of my wall phone down the hall and into the bathroom to shut the door and have a quiet(er) conversation.)

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

I know exactly which day you are talking about. It was a day that changed everyone's lives. Hard to believe that it was 20 years ago.

Katie Lewis said...

Well, this probably won't come as any shock, but I have no recollection of this day in particular, nor do I have any idea who was in the hospital. Well, I have a guess.