#52sparks: Something electronic

I’ve been watching a young girl about once every other month for the past decade. When the connection started she was just two years old, had been adopted from China the year before, and her parents were so protective that they had me come visit three times before they left us alone together. Now a sixth-grader, “My Natalie” is growing into a beautiful young woman. She is artistic, curious, and loyal to her friends. Now rather than babysitting, we “hang out” and I learn from her as much, and some times more, than she learns from me. Considering her longest romantic relationship lasted longer than mine, I’m hoping for tips one day.

But there are definitely some areas that I get to teach her about, including a history lesson while we had lunch.


My Natalie had noticed the case on my cell phone, but didn’t understand what it was. It was far more plain than the sparkly stars on hers. And she commented that I never changed mine; she had a half-dozen options and liked to change more than once a day.

I have never felt so old as when I tried to explain my phone cover to her. I literally put my head on the pizzeria table for a moment to collect my strength.

Once upon a time, long long ago…like 25 years (sigh, head down again). People didn’t have cell phones. In fact I didn’t have a cell phone until after I graduated from college (jaw drop from the pre-teen). So at that time, if I needed to call home for my mom to pick me up, I had to use what’s called a pay phone. They were about the size of a shoe box and attached to the wall.

At this point I started using hand gestures to try and demonstrate a cell phone, but bigger, and glued to the wall. The response was a skeptical “Okay…”

Now the places at the top were where you would put in coins. You had to pay before you could call someone. Or, and this was the teenager trick, you called collect and when the operator asked who was calling, you responded really fast “Mom-pick-me-up” and hung up.

At this point in the story I had pretty much lost My Natalie. I’m not sure if it was “collect”, “operator”, or “hang up” that sunk me. This time the “Okay…” included a quick glance over my shoulder in hopes of pizza coming soon.

The rest of the numbers on the phone were how you dialed. You made them spin around in a circle, and if you made a mistake, you had to hang up and start all over again. There was no texting, no video chat, and somehow we all still got home at night.

With a laugh at my strange, ancient story, My Natalie was happy to be living now when she could have a cell phone and not figure out such a complicated thing. Plus her phone has Spotify…Would I like to see her playlists?

Sure. And then can you teach me how to make one?

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#52sparks is my year-long writing series based on an art prompt challenge. The title is inspired by a quote from Star Wars: The Last Jedi: “We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down” (Poe Dameron). The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or to ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch. So just imagine what hundreds of inches and words can do.

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