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REFLECTIONS by Katie Butler Johnson

I love fall.

It arrives as summer’s heat is waning and crisp mornings start seeping in.

A few years ago, I took Celebration Magazine’s October trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. I got to experience fall in New England. It was my first time traveling with Celebration; my first taste of a lobster roll; and my first attempt to master the Segway. (Thankfully there are no photos of that last first.) We saw forests filled with autumn colors and watched lobster boats trolling the waters on Frenchman’s Bay as their crews checked baited traps. Our evenings were filled with fun. It was a really great trip.

Fall always brings the start of a new school year and that itself prompts my memories of my long gone school days and old school buddies. If my decade’s pop music plays on the radio, my memories go into high gear. If it’s the Chordettes’s “Mr. Sandman” - I’m back in 1958 and dancing with “J” in Fran Baumgartner’s wood paneled basement rec room. And those old rock ‘n roll classics on the radio send my mind rocking down the aisles of the Brooklyn Paramount. With rockers like Chubby Checkers on stage, how could any teen be expected to sit demurely in her seat? I miss my old cohorts. Several are still “just a phone call away.” It would be fun to explore our shared memories from decades ago. I think I’ll give them a call.

I have a love/hate relationship with the telephone.

What I love about the phone is its immediate connection to family and friends - especially those far away. Just hearing their voice, warms my heart. Catching up strengthens our bond. Phone calls with friends have meant a lot to me especially during the isolation of the pandemic. Thankfully, I have good friends who keep in touch.

My friend Phyllis lives in Pennsylvania. She often calls early on a random evening. “You Busy?” She says when I pick up. If I say “No”, she’ll say “Let me pour a glass of wine and we can visit.” Then we’ll spend a long time talking about everything - bridge, books, politics, kids, philosophy, health, religion etc. When we’re all caught up and totally talked out and that one glass of wine is long gone, we say goodbye and go back to our respective lives knowing we’ve each been heard and are each loved.

What I hate about the phone is what we all hate - those persistent nuisance calls. Seems most of my calls these days are nuisance calls from “Unavailable.” The numbers differ, but they all identify as - “Unavailable.” Without caller ID and call block, all those “Unavailable(s)” would be really unbearable.

There was a time I would rush with excitement to pick up the receiver when I heard the phone ring. That was when I knew it would be someone I knew because I’d given them my number. All that’s changed. Now our numbers are sold and circulated without our permission. What ever happened to that “do not call” list?

Today I check caller ID before I ever answer a call. I don’t ignore the ring because it might not be “Unavailable”. It might be important. And, if through some subterfuge the caller mimics a number that looks familiar and I wind up voice to voice with “Unavailable,” there is no way I would be civil or do business with any one of those “UNBEARABLES.”

And now there’s texting. it’s a very efficient way to quickly transfer information and just that information you want to relay. It definitely has its place. But, It’s slowly becoming the main connection between people. I’m glad I’ve lived in a time before email when there were personal letters to read, save and savor. Now personal letters are rare. I’m also happy that I have friends that that enjoy actual conversations rather than merely exchanging digital data. And I love getting that friendly invitation to an actual conversation: “You busy?”

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