My teenage student opens her eyes wide. I have just told her that I don't have a cell phone. She stammers. "But . . . but . . . but . . ." She can't understand. "What if you need to talk to your mom?"
I am touched. What if I need to talk to my mom? She implies that her mom is important to her. What would she do if she couldn't talk to her mom? Call her for advice? Hear her voice when she's sad, or unsure, or afraid of the choices she needs to make? I want to say, "My mom is dead." But that's not the point. I could say, "I will talk to her later," or "I like to get letters."
Out of the frying pan into the fire. Take the bull by the horns. My mother, during a particularly bad time in my life, wrote me a letter full of these types of sayings. I loved her for it. There were no cell phones, and I was half a world away. She was as helpless as I in the situation. A letter arriving on a cold cloudy morning, with her familiar script on the white envelope. I held it cradled in my hands and read the address - me, in a foreign country. I soaked in the return address - her, in a familiar and warm and sunny place. My bedroom window faced a neighbor's pasture, then trees on rolling hills. All I saw was cold snow falling and a smoky room from endlessly lit cigarettes.
Somewhere, in a cardboard box in my closet, or maybe under my bed, I have my letters from my mom stored away. Somewhere, I have her advice tucked away safe. I can talk to her later. Yes, that's what I can say. That's what I can do.