“Hey, Mom, I think I’m gunna ask Santa to bring me a cell phone this Christmas,” said my son, as my cell phone broke into my December default ringtone, Barry Manilow’s rendition of “Jingle Bells” (which is very cool and jazzy, by the way, so all those who like to dis Barry, just keep all your Barry Manilow comments to yourselves).
Wanting to have my youngest child remain my baby for as long as possible, and not delve into the adult/I like to think I’m an adult but I’m just a brain-damaged teenager world of mobile phones, I decided to use my clever reasoning skills to get him to see that there is much fun to be had without the aid of a cell phone.
“Believe it or not, there was a time when people did not own cell phones,” I began, pulling him into the crook of my arm and looking off into the distance. “When I was a kid, we didn’t have cell phones.”
“Was it because the ringing would tell the dinosaurs where the people were?” he asked innocently.
“You’re a funny guy,” I said, continuing undeterred with my soliloquy about a world without cell phones.
“It was a simpler time. A time when children rode bikes and kicked cans for fun,” I began in a wistful tone. I explained what telephones were like in my day; large white domestic devices that you had to dial manually by inserting your pointer finger (or both of Barbie’s feet, as I found out one day while conducting a series of highly scientific experiments on what could be used to turn the dial) into a hole in the plastic dial-face and turning.
“Now this phone was connected to the wall, but you could pick it up and move it around with you as you talked. And, the phone was pretty heavy. So heavy that if used as a weapon, it could do some serious damage, limited only by its range, which I found out when I threw it at your Uncle Lance one day during a heated argument (which HE started). He was too far away, and the cord that connected the phone to the wall stopped the trajectory short, which probably saved his life. But I digress.”
I went on telling him about the fact that everybody in the United States had the same ringtone (no “Jingle Bells;” no “Bang the Drum All Day”); and whenever it rang, there would be excitement.
“You see, we wouldn’t know who was calling, because there was no such thing as caller ID,” I explained, ruffling my fingers through his hair. “Who was calling? Could it be Grandma? Could it be a friend inviting one of us over for ice cream? Could it be some lunatic asking if the refrigerator was running? You never knew! You just had topick up the phone and say ‘hello.’ It was thrilling.”
My rant ran the full gamut of things we considered fun in the late 60s and early 70s from our “smoking” of candy cigarettes while munching on M&M’s loaded with red die number 10 to riding in the back of an open pick-up truck, fighting over who got to sit on the wheel well.
“And, we had a lot of fun playing with sticks, rocks, and gum wrappers,” I said, smiling at the memory. I snuck a glance at my son and saw his eyes starting to glaze over and jaw going a bit slack.
I was just about to talk about the hours of enjoyment we had with Sea Monkeys, when my son said, “OK Mom. Never mind. Guess I’ll just ask Santa for a new Lego set.”
Mission accomplished, I thought to myself. Distract kids from their “I want this, I want that” mantra with stories of how all you had to play with was dirt (and you liked it!), because there were no fancy-shmancy video games, and it works almost every time.