Hanging on to the landline for entertainment

We are dinosaurs who still have a landline phone. It sits in the family room of our home tastefully decorated with hieroglyphics on the walls.

One of us is a progressive dinosaur who periodically pushes for ditching the landline. But I am married to a beloved old-school dinosaur who wants to keep the landline because we could miss something important.

He then enumerates a half-dozen marvelous calls we would have missed during the past year if we had disconnected the landline.

It’s hard to argue with a dinosaur in possession of a phone log.

Our landline is a tall, thin portable with caller ID and voicemail. I rarely answer it, but you-know-who runs to check caller ID whenever it rings. He rarely answers it either. The primary benefit of keeping a landline is that it provides exercise.

Some of the grands were over and discovered an old phone in a closet where we stash board games.

It is a Trimline, a sleek phone with lighted push buttons and a coiled cord that keeps you on a short leash. They wanted to know if it worked, so I unplugged the portable landline and plugged in the corded wonder.

I proceeded to call the landline from my cell, but the child kept picking it up before it had a chance to ring.

“Set it down, so I can call you.”

She set it down. Then she picked it back up.

“No, you have to put it down and let it sit there.”

I realized this child is of the generation that has never known a phone not permanently attached to its owner’s flesh.

She set it down once again into the receiver. Upside down.

I repositioned it correctly and again called the landline from my cell.

The phone let out a shrill, piercing B-R-R-R-R-ING and the kid shot straight up into the air; her eyes were wide with fear.

“Answer it,” I said.

She did.

“Hello,” I said. “This is the past calling.”

You can’t get this on an app, kids. Grandma and Grandpa have the coolest toys ever.

A few moments later, one of her sisters was passing though the kitchen when the landline let out another loud, shrill B-R-R-R-R-ING.

That one jumped into the air with an arc to her back as though she had been tackled. “What is that?” she yelled.

Soon everybody was vying for a go at answering the landline with the shrill, piercing ring.

Naturally, after receiving calls, they then wanted to place a call. They agreed to call their aunt but couldn’t because nobody memorizes phone numbers anymore. We’re all on speed dial.

I said they could find her number in the Rolodex on my desk.

“What’s a roll-o-deck?”

“We’ll save that for next time, kids. This has been enough history for one day.”

Maybe their Grandpa will be home next time they stop by. No doubt, he has some old phone books stashed away somewhere. We’re in the book listed under “Fun.”

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To mow or not to mow is the question

Seeds for conflict are being sown in the U.K. over whether to mow one’s lawn or let it become a small patch of wilderness. It’s a new twist on an old drama. Call it Lawn Order.

More simply put, it is Grass Warfare. Pro-wilding advocates are squaring off against pro-manicured lawn advocates.

One article on the turf wars featured a photograph of Prince Charles standing in a suit and tie with a boutonniere in a lovely meadow of tall grasses and wildflowers. The implication being that he was gazing about in approval of the naturalization, but for all we know he may have been wondering what was for lunch.

What was missing were subsequent photos of when the prince returned to the castle, violently shook out his shirt, tie, suit coat, suit pants, socks and the undergarments he was wearing, then endlessly twisted about with a hand mirror checking his body for ticks.

We received a birthday party invitation from our oldest granddaughter about to turn 12 who lives in the country surrounded by woods and tall grasses. She thoughtfully specified dress requirements for the party: “Wear long pants, socks over your pants, tuck a long shirt into pants and don’t forget bug spray!” No mention of a suit and tie.

Her mother routinely finds several ticks on a couple of the children every day. Checking for ticks on a child’s skin is far different from checking for ticks on aging skin. My left arm alone has enough freckles and markings that one can visualize the entire Milky Way in the stretch of space from my elbow to my wrist.

The husband’s skin is similar, which is why the last time I checked his legs for ticks, I may have drawn blood with the tweezers. What I thought was a tick was a very tiny mole. I was told that “sorry” is not a legal defense for medical malpractice.

Tall grasses are home to ticks carrying nasty diseases, as well as snakes, chiggers, mosquitoes, small vermin and invasive weeds. This is why even people who live in the country mow the green space around their homes. Reptiles, insects, weeds and vermin are not known for respecting boundaries. And I am sure, that this is surely not a problem only in the UK, but also, in countries like the USA! No wonder many would opt to have artificial grass installation in Castle Rock (or similar services in their vicinity) done in their backyards at least!

However, some on the naturalization side have put forth a compromise suggesting that people only mow the lawn once a month. This is referred to as “managed messiness.”

We once had neighbors who practiced “managed messiness.” Here it was a naturalization choice and all that time we simply thought they did not know how to start a lawnmower.

Going natural always sounds so free and wonderful, but in the case of not mowing lawns, unintended consequences could have some serious bite. Not to mention scratching, swelling and redness.

The important thing is that we respectfully listen to one another’s ideas and – above all – stay grounded.

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Move aside, the kid has a map

She is five years old, skipping across the parking lot with a paper map squeezed beneath her arm and against her body like it is a top-secret document. She shakes wild curly hair out of her face and reminds the group that she has the map the park ranger handed us on entry to the state park. She shouts this with an air of importance as though being in possession of a map will elevate her standing among her older cousins.

A map is a novelty to a 5-year-old; built-in dashboard GPS navigation is not.

In-car navigation is still somewhat of a novelty to me; a map is not.

Ten of us cross the parking lot and regroup near trailheads.

She shakes the map loose from its folds and it billows like a parachute. She wrangles it under control, studies it intently, traces lines with her finger and yells, “Trail 7! Let’s take Trail 7!”

“Trail 7? What’s on Trail 7?” the group murmurs.

“Look at Trail 7, Grandma!” she demands.

“I can’t see Trail 7 because I can’t find my glasses,” I holler over the wind.

Isn’t that how all good navigators respond?

Lewis says to Clark, “Well, we’re lost again, and I can’t find my glasses!”

Clark says to Lewis, “Where did you last see them?”

Lewis snaps, “If I knew where I last saw them, I wouldn’t be looking for them!”

The tiny navigator points to the top of my head, indicating the location of my glasses, just as a strong gust of wind rips one side of the map from her two-handed grasp.

We jump and lunge and flail against the wind, and finally the cumbersome map is once again under our command. I begin studying the map, which is somewhat of a challenge as the dotted lines marking the trails are very faint. What’s more, I need to find our position in relation to the parking lot, but I am having trouble finding it.

“You do know you’re growing up in the digital age where everybody does everything on their phones, right?” I ask.

She squints her eyes and glares. It’s a menacing glare, even from a half-pint.

“I don’t have a phone,” she deadpans.

Good point.

The kid wants to use the map.

I point out that we are standing by the start of Trail 1. “I’ve been on Trail 1 before,” I say. “It’s wonderful.”

“But I want Trail 7.”

“Well, we’re nowhere close to Trail 7.”

Another eye squint.

“Trail 1 has a suspension bridge,” I say.

The glare softens.

“And it takes us through a deep canyon carved into enormous rocks.”

Her eyes widen.

I lean close to let her in on the best part. “And we might see a teeny tiny waterfall.”

She’s all in.

“Tell you what, next time we come we’ll do Trail 7. OK?”

She relents and relinquishes Trail 7. But not the map.


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Tax refund is a two-edged sword

When the husband announced we were getting a sizable tax refund this year, I froze. It was one of those moments when you remember where you were and what you were wearing. (Middle of the kitchen, black workout pants, gray hoodie – same thing I’ve worn every day since the pandemic began.)

“That’s terrible,” I whispered, barely able to talk.

“I know,” he said, visibly shaken.

“It’s all right,” I said, “we still have each other.”

Refunds terrify us. Not only because it means we miscalculated and overpaid estimated quarterly taxes, but because anytime we get a windfall of any sort, it is always followed by another wind. Something along the lines of a tornado.

Our first rule of finance is that unexpected money means unexpected expenses. They’re coming. You know they’re coming; you just don’t know when they’re coming.

The first one hit – literally – the next week. Heavy rain turned to ice and coated all the needles on all the branches of a large white pine next to the house. Branches at the top cracked under the weight and took lower branches out with them, hurling themselves against the house then crashing to the ground. It sounded like a wrecking ball in slow-mo.

We surveyed the damage. Nearly one entire side of the tree was on the ground. Branches had dented siding, scraped brick, cracked a window frame and ripped the electrical box for the AC off the house.

“It could have been worse,” I said, which is our second rule of finance right after “unexpected money means unexpected expenses.”

The next day we bought new windshield wipers for the car. The nice man who put them on said he heard a little sing-song noise from the engine that we might want to have looked at. We took it to our mechanic who called within the hour. He said it was bad news and that we needed to take it to the dealership. “It’s gonna cost big time,” he said. “Hope you guys got a tax refund.”

That night I said, “Well, the house has spoken, the homeowners claim has been filed, the car is at a spa at the dealership enjoying two grand in the sun, but at least the appliances are all working.”

“How could you say such a thing?” the husband snapped. “You think appliances don’t have ears?”

The refrigerator let out a wicked laugh, followed by a clunk, dropping the last ice cubes we would ever see. For five days we hit the on/off switch to the ice maker and tripped the little bar. Then we bought a bag of ice from the grocery. Now, since I routinely forget to buy ice at the store, we make our own ice cubes in two blue plastic trays. We’ve gone retro.

I have a dental appointment this week. Last year, the dentist replaced two old fillings with crowns and has his eye on a third. If we go for broke on another crown, I will insist on being called “Her Majesty.” It may not stop the outflow of money, but I’ll enjoy a new title.

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