1983. It was a big year. Sally Ride became the first female astronaut. Return of the Jedi dominated the big screen. I graduated from middle school. Our family got a cordless phone.
Did you hear that? Our family got a cordless phone. Let me explain. I grew up in a two story house. And there was no phone upstairs. Yes, there was a phone jack up there, but there was no way my parents were going to allow us to have full access to an unsupervised phone. So when that cordless phone showed up, I’m pretty sure I heard the angels sing. I could take that phone into my own room and chat until someone else picked up and demanded I stop yammering and free up the line.
I decided to invite a friend over to spend the night and celebrate the arrival of summer. And the new phone. We laughed. We snacked. We painted nails into the wee hours. I guess we weren’t having enough fun, because we decided to up the ante.
“Hey, you should call Melvin*.” (names have been changed to protect the innocent. notice my name hasn’t been changed)
“Really? You think I should?”
“Ok, great idea!”
The voice of reason in my head shouted, “Hey, Einstein. It’s the middle of the night….” but was drowned out by the excitement of possibly hearing Melvin’s voice on the other end of the line. Shockingly, I’d given absolutely no thought to what I would say when someone answered.
I carefully dialed Melvin’s number. It rang. My heart raced. It rang again. Would he ever pick up? Then someone did pick up. I heard the sound of my mother’s voice eek out a sleepy “Hello?”
What could have possibly tipped her off to our shenanigans? Incessant giggling? Trips up and down the stairs to raid the refrigerator yet again? Perhaps it was the base of the phone clicking away with every punch of the keypad like the sound of a rotary phone tapping out Melvin’s number in morse code right next to her sleeping head. Yeah. Who knew early cordless phones did that. Not me.
Fight? Flight? I could handle this. I was a middle school graduate, after all. Yes. The best plan was to just hang up. Click.
Then a slow but deepening realization that I’d just left my mom ear to ear with whomever picked up the phone on the other end crept over me. Turns out it was Melvin’s mom.
I turned to my friend and said, “Been nice knowing ya. I’ll see you, if I ever see you again, when I graduate from college.”
Then I heard her from the stairwell. “Cuhhh-meeeee-yuuullll.” My name went from two syllables to three when I was in trouble. That night I’m pretty sure my name was stretched into four. Maybe five.