Was a time when I used to talk on the phone. Daily, even. Phone calls were a normal, expected part of the day— especially with my best friend.
For years and years we lived a mere mile apart, and yet life conspired to keep us from seeing each other face to face regularly. So the morning check in phone call was born. Sometime after our husbands departed for work, as we were throwing the day’s first load of laundry in, scrubbing a toilet, overseeing the preschooler toting the bowl of dog food in, we would talk. And talk. And talk. About everything and anything, and sometimes nothing at all.
The biggest hurdle to face time was, in all honesty, the very thing that brought us together to start with: our kids. When we met, we had four kiddos aged 5 and under between us. Fast forward fourteen years and now we mother 16. Sixteen children, and frankly, one blessed mess of humanity. We are modern mothers, after all. We have too many food issues to count (I am pretty sure the safest snack at a gathering at this point would be sliced apple and air), a laundry list of diagnoses, gifted kids, learning issues, a handful of therapists on call, and a whole load of worries that we’re doing it right. We have college kids, high schoolers, middle schoolers, elementary schoolers, and one each in the preschool, toddler, and infant column.
We have all these kids… and no longer live in the same time zone. The morning check in phone call is, sadly, a thing of the past. The logistics would be insane; when the 8:30 a.m. breakfast clean-up window hits in WA, it’s the 11:30 a.m. lunch rush in TN. Obviously, I can’t call her after our breakfast, either. Who wants to hear from even their bestest best friend at 5:30 in the morning?
So now we text. Pretty much daily, a flurry of messages fly back and forth. “I am having a cruddy day.” “Guess who just used the potty?!?!” “What kind of virus does this sound like to you?” “Try this recipe!” It’s the 21st Century friendship in real time, told via the pleasant ding of an iPad in between read-alouds and meal prep. I don’t love it. But I know how blessed I am that nearly three years after leaving the state, I still have an abiding connection with someone I love but can’t invite over for a barbecue anymore. If it takes text messages to keep the dialogue going, so be it.
And truth be told, I don’t really talk to anyone on the phone anymore. Carving out the time to divert my attention from my own house is a precarious endeavor, and one that I can’t seem to afford anymore. Life is too full, too present, and too fast for me to hit the pause button and sideline myself for more than a few minutes at a time.
Except yesterday, I did. It was a special occasion— my best friend’s birthday. So I called, she answered, and we chatted. And oh my, it was good to hear her voice. Her actual voice. Not her voice in my head as I giggled at silly baby sleeping habits or prayed with her over the future of a teenager seeking his purpose. Her actual voice, with its familiar cadence and its quiet joy. Of course, we talked about rashes and dogs who act like nutters and weeks too full of activity to feel like anything but a whirl. But we also found a moment, in between directing kids from point A to point B and reminiscing over illnesses past, to ask if the other person was truly o.k., to check and see if there was anything lurking under the veneer that needed to see light.
You can do that by text. And we do.
But hearing a voice, on the other end of a line… it’s more precious, more valuable than we remember as we glide through our days feeling like there’s no chance to pull ourselves aside and take a moment to connect with someone we love.
There’s nothing profound here, nothing deeper than the realization that friendship is worth tending, and that nothing can ever replace sitting beside someone and sharing a moment that is real and true. But in a world that is rapidly trading best for good, a world that has forgotten that a “friend” is not someone whose request you accept on a social media site, I needed the reminder to create space for the small slice of connection I can steal with someone whose life is inexorably entwined with my own in ways I will relish long after all sixteen of these kids have grown and flown.
A string of texts is good. But a phone call? A phone call is great. It will never replace a real visit, never be the same as sitting across from one another and sharing space. But it has more flesh on it than words on a screen. It’s a connection worth making, even in 2017.