Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Back in Olden Times

My ten-year-old and I haven't read aloud at bedtime in quite a while, but we started a book together this week. We are reading my yellowed and dog-eared copy of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl. The stamp inside the front cover contains my maiden name and the address of the house I lived in until I was ten, so you know it's really old.  

I like to share just about any book with my kids, but reading one of my childhood favorites is a real treat. When we have the very copy that I read so many times, it's a tangible reminder that my childhood and theirs share much in common.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Note: First time in paperback. Cost: $1.95.

Except when they don't. We were reading aloud last night when I got to this passage:

"Hello," he said into the phone. "Hello hello hello! Where's the operator?" He jiggled furiously on the little thing you jiggle when you want the operator. "Operator, where are you?"

My son is a curious kid. The best part of reading aloud with him is that we end up on all kinds of tangents. He frequently interrupts me to share an interesting fact or ask a question, so I've learned to pause when he inhales deeply. Sometimes, I can even anticipate the question.

I felt a question coming after the above. Feeling I knew what was coming, I preempted him. "I know," I said, "you don't know what the 'thing you jiggle' is. They don't have them on phones anymore." 

This alone was enough to throw me off, because how could someone not know the rounded plastic feeling of the "thing you jiggle" bobbing under your finger? It's in my muscle memory, for goodness sakes. But, as a parent, it's my job to teach my kid about life in the olden days, so I pulled out my iPhone and got ready to Google.

Just as I was offering to find a photo of an old phone , he interrupted me and said, "What's an operator?"



  1. I loved sharing favorite childhood books with Emma. When she was in 4th or 5th grade we read a while series of English boarding school books together that were old when I read them in the 70s so I'm sure we had similar conversations. I miss those days. She returned from dance class a moment ago and I asked if she wanted to watch a TV show with me and I was informed that she was gooing to read and do homework. Oh Well!

  2. You should head to a thrift store and find an old phone. Then you could show him. As for the operator, Lily Tomlin suddenly comes to mind.

  3. Your Grandfather and probably Grandma Greene had/has such a phone. Too bad we got rid of Grandpa Pauls. You don't remember sharing a telephone party line!!!!