A few days ago, our family joined the growing ranks of the landline-less: we let go, left ourselves clinging only to our cell phones. For our kids, who also each have their own cell phones, the transition was no big deal; if they gave it any thought it was only, “What took you so long?” But for my husband and me it felt like a real loss. And as he and I drove home from AT&T, neither of us had much to say other than we felt … untethered.
I grew up always having a home phone. No matter what state or dwelling my family called home, no matter what style of phones we had – the ones with that frustrating curly cord, or the long antenna that had to be all the way up for the phone to work right – we had at least one, and a unique number to go with it. And of course, any time we gave up a home phone we immediately got another one. The same went for my husband’s family. But this time it was different. We got rid of the home line, a unique pattern of nine digits that somehow represented our family. And we didn’t replace it.
Yesterday, as I headed out the door to run a few errands, I left our seventeen year old in charge and reminded the kids to keep their cell phones on, charged, and with volumes up, because there is no home phone anymore. I have to admit, I got a little choked up as I said it. I realized that our family has one less thing in common now. It sounds silly I know, we all still live at the same address, after all, still share the same last name. But now we are only reachable by completely different numbers. If I need to reach my husband, I call one number, for my middle kid another number, even if they’re all at home, sitting side by side on the couch. We’re all a little bit separated now. Perhaps it resonates with me because it’s a foreshadowing of the nest-leaving separations that our household will begin experiencing in the next year or two. Perhaps I was just being over-nostalgic, but as I pulled out of the driveway, I felt unconnected.
Some may offer the view that we are actually more connected now because we each have our very own phones with us every moment, whether we’re home or away. But I think that’s the new way of thinking about the term. I always thought of being “connected” as sharing something, something that brings people together, that unites them. Now the term seems to be more about having access to a service, about being reachable by some device, than sharing a common bond. But there’s no bond to be forged by simply being “online” at the same time as everyone else. And simply being able to call someone at any time doesn’t mean that something unique has brought us together, that we’re truly connected.
It’s strange not having a home phone anymore, but I’m getting used to the change. The change that might take me a while longer to get used to, though, is our society’s definition of just what it means to be “connected.”