Today my daughter called from France. She uses Skype to call my land line, and the cost is very, very reasonable. Still, it is an overseas call and, though she sounds as if she is calling from next door, I find myself operating under my grandmother’s rule of long distance conversations.
I recall Grandma telling me how ridiculous it was for someone (I think it was her sister) to mention that the pet bird had died, when Grandma was calling long distance to let her know of their expected arrival time. Back in “the day” long distance phone calls were very expensive and, at least as far as Grandma was concerned, should be limited to the information of urgent importance.
So, the first thing I said when I heard Jen’s voice on the phone was, “Is everything alright?” (Why do I still think the only reason my children would call me is when they need something like money, or help with the emotional detour of the day/week/month?) Assured that all was fine, we started chatting about what she is doing in France, how she is spending her days and such. She does like where she is living and she is spending her days drawing and painting. She runs and walks all over the town which is quite picturesque. She cooks and practices her guitar, and she works on her French with friends who stop by and with strangers who stop to watch her draw, when she is set up outside.
It was great to hear from her. This marks her third weekend in France and her third call home. She is able to call when they go to Benoit’s parents’ home, where she has access to the Internet. Still, I kept hearing Grandma’s voice, asking me, "Why, oh why, are you discussing the movie JFK, or the fact that France’s new President is reportedly getting divorced? Why are you discussing the Al Gore Nobel prize, and the prospect of Hillary in the White House? This is a LONG DISTANCE CALL!!!"
And it occurred to me that I will always hear those words. Just as I always hear my mother’s voice, reminding me to cut my food in bite sizes no bigger than a postage stamp, and my father’s voice telling me to turn out the light when I leave the room. Those are just ingrained in my thought process.
Still, I love chatting with my daughter and we talked for more than thirty minutes.
As I was once again, collecting hickory nuts later, I mulled the whole thing over in my head. And it occurred to me that Grandma WAS right, and so were we. For, it occurred to me, it was of urgent importance that my daughter have a multi-topic conversation with someone she loved, in her native language! She has been speaking the language of her loved one for more than two weeks now, and, as she says, the problem with speaking a language that is not your own, is that your “personality” is lost. Of course, as she grows more comfortable with the language and the colloquialisms, her personality will begin to emerge, but, for now, I understand the true importance of “phoning home.”