About a month ago, the cordless phone in the kitchen stopped working. No warning, no beeping to say ‘Get ready, I’m about to leave you high and dry.’ It just stopped working. So, we brought in a counter top phone from the storage closet. I don’t know what these kinds of phones are really called, but it’s the kind that sits on the counter or a table and the part you talk into has to stay plugged into the base. We used to call the base on these phones ‘the hook’. Did y’all? I can hear Mama now, “Honey, put this back on the hook, please.”
Today just happens to be my grandmother’s birthday. Ninety-six years old. Wow. This is another topic surely to be taken up in another post, but just know that when I called to tell her happy birthday, I was reminded how the one what’s on the phone and making polite conversation can’t get over to the one what’s creating trouble. You are only as good as the length of the phone cord. And I usually need more than that thing offers.
In the minutes leading up to my innocently calling my beloved grandmother to wish her the happiest of days, Ben (10) pulled out a candle and a lighter. The male persuasion has the most curious infatuation with fire. It drives me crazy. Further, it drives me crazy to find my beautiful scented candles with a beetle melted into the wax. Or the letters B-E-N carved on the outside. Moving on.
So, with the kitchen smelling of our dinner waiting on the stove, Emma was at the kitchen table looking up hairstyles on the computer, Ben was at the counter with his candle and lighter, The Hubs was due in from work any minute and I assumed the position – across the room – to call Babba (my grandmother).
“Hello?” came my own mother’s voice on the second ring.
“Mama! Hey! What are y’all doing?”
“Well, hey, darling! We came to eat pizza with Babba for her birthday. What are y’all doing?”
“Nothing. Just finished cooking supper.”
“Were you calling to tell Babba happy birthday?” Niiiice. She thought I’d forgotten, so she wasn’t really asking. She was telling me why I had called. It was about right here, I think, that it registered with me that Ben had lit the candle and was leaning in for a good sniff.
“Hello?” Babba’s voice. Not much above a whisper but never far away from a cackle.
“Hey Babba! Happy birthday! Have you had a good day?”
“Yeah. Sure have. You?”
“Yes, ma’am.” This is when I noticed a little bit of a hustle going on over by the counter. Emma, Ben said in a loud stage whisper, Emma! Oh my gosh. Did you see that? My hair was on fire.
“Yes, ma’am. I did have a good day. I can hear Daddy’s voice in the background. Who else is eating pizza with you?”
What part? Emma replied without even looking up from the computer. What?? Ben asked with eyes as big as tractor wheels. What part of your hair? Emma asked.
“Well, Sue and Guy. Lou and Rick. It sure is good.” I was grounded by that dumb 1989 phone! I couldn’t hang up on Babba, but Ben’s hair is or was on fire??? I did a quick twirl and stretch to see how much I could get out of that springy cord, but Ben was still across the room and Emma hadn’t looked up yet.
Emma, did you hear it sizzle? Ben said with a little giggle.
WHAT is that smell? Aaand, Emma joins the group.
“Well, Babba, I’m sorry to have to hang up so fast. Ben has caught his bangs on fire. I’m glad you had a good birthday. I love you.”
“I love you too, Sugar.”
On my way from what felt like the other side of the world to where Ben sat at the counter, I glanced down over Emma’s shoulder to see the Google search bar staring up at me with “long curly hair for white girls”. What in the world. No, I’m not asking a question, it’s just all I can and could think of to say.
“Ben. Give me that candle. And the lighter. Now, I was trying to talk to Babba on the phone. How in the world could you catch your hair on fire?”
Of course, he had no comment. But I could tell he had thoroughly cracked himself up. Maybe I should have kept right on chatting with Babba and let his head heat up just a little. Clinton Anderson would say that was letting him commit to his mistake.
Like so many other manners misdemeanors with kids these days, I could blame his bad behavior on technology. I mean, if the cordless phone hadn’t broken and I didn’t have to be using outdated equipment, I could have gotten over to that blazing bangs inferno right quick like. In reality, it’s his own fault. At 10 years old, he should know some fire safety and I know I’ve told him more than 25 times to be quiet when adults are talking on the phone or in person.
I wonder if Smokey the Bear makes house calls? Or, Emily Post, for that matter. I’ve just about done all I can here.