chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

rules of engagement

phone cornerThere was one phone in our house. Really, there was no need for more than one as long as I followed the rules about when and how long I could talk. It wasn’t until long after I had moved out that the phones proliferated, finding their way into bedrooms and kitchen.

Our phone lived in the very center of the house, outside my bedroom, in a little corner of the long T-shaped hallway. Black and heavy, with a rotary dial, it sat on a small, ornate table accompanied by a slender chair, both of which had belonged to my mother’s grandfather (and both of which now live in my house, though not side-by-side). (The photo, with its sleek Princess-style phone, was taken decades later and in the lower right features a doorbell that my mother used to recall my father from his workshop in the garage.)

As an adolescent, I suddenly realized the phone afforded no privacy and discovered that the black cord (which then had no coils) was just long enough to reach across the hall into my room. If I closed the door carefully over the cord, I could sit just inside with my back to the door and there, for the 15 minutes I was allowed, talk in peace.

Unless, of course, my mother interrupted me, knocking on the door to complain about the hazard of the cord, or my secrecy, or the closed door. Once she yelled at me because I had called a boy. I don’t remember who he was or why I called him or how she found out, but it was a clear violation of her rules and in the lecture that followed she told me that I was a slut. She had a lot of rules. Some, like that one, I only learned about after I had broken them.


8 responses to “rules of engagement

  1. marsha addis October 1, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Me thinks projection was at work when your mother made her rules.

  2. jik October 1, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Hmmmm…may be… xox

  3. Jennifer Bullis October 2, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Wow. Yes, those rules–the ones that are so important, nobody ever mentions them.

  4. Kim Bultman October 5, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Young kids (and young adults) don’t understand the concept of ‘one phone hooked to the wall’ and ‘party lines’ and ‘no privacy.’ Yup, monitored conversations… what a great essay on ‘the way it was.’ Thank you. (And sorry you got yelled at for talking to a boy… gasp!)

  5. kristin March 3, 2015 at 11:26 am

    That was a rule in my house as well. I don’t remember being told it was, but I knew it was. Trying times.

  6. jik March 3, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Indeed. Good to be able to reflect on them from afar, having survived.

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