Operator, Can You Help Me Place This Call?

Today would be my Mommmom’s Birthday — and as is my annual tradition, I am sharing this, origially posted Sunday, December 6, 2009

Long ago and far away (is the constant presence of this nostalgic preface in my writing a sign that I am tipping over into the next phase of life? I certainly hope not) — Sundays were about calling home. Long distance rates were lowest on Sunday — and in particular on Sunday night. And back in the day (there I go again) we would all commit a part of our Sunday to calling our parents and grandparents. As I got older, and the telecom business and rate structure in the US changed (feel free to ask Bob, he can expand on this one) this all disappeared into a fuzzy memory.

But still, on Sunday morning I wake up ready to take on the New York Times, the Washington Post, a big cup of coffee and make my family calls (we were a little more well off than others, it was okay to call on Sunday AM — oohh — fancy). And even this morning, though many years have passed and my house is full of children (mine!) in varying degrees of sleep, I have this undeniable urge to pick up the phone (the one no longer connected to the wall) and dial CE2–7479. This was my grandmothers’ phone number — Mommom’s exchange was “CC” which stood for “Center City” in Philadelphia where she was the reigning and undisputed queen of the Philadelphian, the very stately apartment complex where she lived in apartment 14-C-42 with breathtaking views of the Parkway, Museum and the city. I pass this building every week on the train en route to NYC. I want to hear my Mommom’s voice as she listens intently and responds to my excited tales of life as me (nothing changes) with her own unique brand of sage sound bites, well-earned from having lived through one of the most reliably fluctuating, advancing and startling centuries of history. And she did not just show-up — she lived. And set an incredibly high standard for what it meant to connect with others in this world, something I aspire to along with her unique brand of being a female company head (long lunches at Bookbinders on 15th street followed by check signing with scotch and her Parliaments come to mind) not to mention her sense of style (oh she had it!).

Back in the Day — 1985 with Mommom

My grandmother died in 1998 (Thanksgiving — weekend, right after Lila was born). Born in 1908, she was one the truest characters I have ever known. My Mommom was flawed and fabulous all at once. And also, one of the biggest fans I would ever have. And I think often how she would react to this crazy new world, would she (as I suspect) reduce it all to the very basic precepts (Men can’t help themselves — um , Tiger Woods) or sing it in Cole Porter lyrics (When grandma whose age is eighty in night clubs is getting matey with gigolos — anything goes um, Cougars)? Would she stand behind my choices (I am sure of it) and laugh along with me though the long days here at Casa Loco (she would certainly enjoy my stories circa 2009 but she would not want to be part of the chaos)? Would she suggest I go see her “guy” for something (a piece of jewelry or an oil change — not matter what she had a guy)? Would she tell me to keep it up while at the same time telling me to do less (yes, likely)? She never saw me as a mother — or in a successful marriage. And really this is what I wish the most…that I could tell her how good and lucky my life is and how I wake up every day saying, in the words of Cole Porter “ It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely” and in my words — this life of mine is good — beyond expectation, how I wish you were here to share it with me — I miss you…

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