Phone Home

I got an email from my mom yesterday that I would have thought was spam if I didn’t know my mom was being completely serious. “I’m Changing my number,” read the subject line.

You tell me if you wouldn’t have just deleted this.

HI Everyone,

Just letting you know my number will be changing in the near future. The new phone number will be [like i’m giving you my mom’s number] so when you have a moment jot it down.

I’m not moving trying a new phone company. By the looks of it, it will save me lots of money on long distance.

$37.00 dollars a month, all local and long distance included. Sounds to good to be true, but a friend of mine has it and it works great for her, Thanks Kyle.

I will let everyone know when it takes effect. Waiting for equipment to arrive to hook it up.

Everything is fine here and hope to talk to everyone soon. It will be free. Now I don’t have to wait till late at night and I won’t be waking people up anymore.

Take care talk to you soon.

Then I thought about it. My mom spends probably three hours a day on her cell phone, which is quickly running out of juice. She stays up very late to get her unlimited night minutes, and she’s always looking for a better service plan.

In any event, all of this is to say once I figured out that this wasn’t spam, I was filled with a profound sense of loss.

The phone number I’ve had since I was thirteen will be no more. The number that has always meant “home” will belong to somebody else, will be some other “home,” will be some other mommy on the other line. I’ve moved twenty-something times, so you’d think this was the norm for me, and in fact it is, so that’s probably why I’m strangely attached to this phone number. We’ve had this one the longest. I still remember my address in Jackson, for some unnecessary reason. I also remember the phone number of my best friend there, whom I called about three thousand times in five years. His mom still has that number, which is good in case I feel the need to call him on Christmas day (yet to happen, but always a possibility, and I like having the ability to do that. Now when I want to call my mom I’ll have to look up this number because the one my fingers have been trained to call in the dark, that one means nothing).

I felt rather silly for getting attached to those numbers. In fact, it hasn’t been the very same number since I was thirteen, as the area code changed when I was in college, and I felt the same lost feeling then when I was only changing the first three digits. Now it’s the final seven that are different, and it makes everything feel different. I told myself to stop being so silly, to grow up and be a normal human being about this. It’s just a phone number. And my mom said so herself, she’s going to save “lots of money on long distance.” That means more calls to me, without having to angle around her Cingular plan.

I sheepishly confessed at dinner last night that I felt a bit of sorrow over my mom’s number changing. Any guilt I had went away when I saw the faces of stee, Jessica and Dan at the thought of their number changing.

“That would be so sad!” stee said. “I can’t even imagine that.”

“Yeah, that’s the number for home,” Jessica said, looking a little terrified.

“It’s the number I learned as a song in Kindergarten.”

Then they were quiet for a little while, each happy that their home number has always remained the same. It was that same look I get when people who lived in one house their entire lives realize what my childhood must have been like, attending thirteen different schools. It’s the same kind of look someone who’s close to their dad gives me when they learn mine has passed away. It’s like someone told them a terrible secret, and gave them a glimpse into the future. Usually you can see their heads shake just a little, to get the image out.

This shouldn’t be so traumatic. It’s just seven numbers. My own home number has changed every year and a half or so since I went to college.

My cell phone went off at five in the morning this morning. I ran to the phone with dread, knowing it had to be bad news. I saw the caller ID: MOM RIBON (you have to put in a last name. It’s so dumb.)

Everybody’s dead. Everybody’s sick. The dog’s in the hospital. Mom’s in the hospital. Bosie’s missing. She crashed the car. The house is on fire. She’s been robbed. Everybody’s dead.


Nothing. No sound. Then a little sound, a rustle. Like air, maybe.

“Mom? Mom? Mom!”

Nothing. Then a rustle again. Nothing.

her phone probably called me. everybody’s phone does that. remember your phone called Jay while you were drinking a martini and then you had a drunken crazy conversation, asking him how florida is when he lives in texas? you woke him up and couldn’t figure out the time zone? and then your phone immediately called chris and you probably woke him up, too? mom’s phone probably just called you, that’s all. calm down. calm down.


if her phone’s in her purse she can’t hear you, stupid. unless she’s been in an accident, and her car is in a ditch right now, and she’s calling you while she waits for an ambulance, just to hear your voice in case it’s the last minute of her life, and you’re spending it wailing her name instead of telling her that you love her and you want her to stay strong and wait for the ambulance and that she’s going to be okay. what are you going to do? how long are you going to stand there and call her name? you like talking to her purse? what if she’s already dead?

I hung up. I called back.

“Hello?” Mom. Chipper. I could picture her driving to work, putting her headset into her ear, fiddling with the microphone. “Good morning, Pamie! What’s up?”

“You called me.”

“I did?”


“Yeah, I probably did.” Then she laughed and laughed and laughed. “Sorry!”

“I thought you were dead in a ditch.”

Then she laughed some more. “My phone does that sometimes. Sorry to wake you. Go back to bed.”

I couldn’t fall back to sleep, still jittery from the fake near-death experience. I tossed and turned.

stee: “Your mom sure thought that was funny.”

“That lady’s killing me.”

Currently Reading:

  • The Basic Eight, by Daniel Handler. There’s a line in the book about “A Series of Unfortunate Incidents.” Heh.

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