Message received from my mom at 11:42 a.m. Friday: FYI we no longer have a telephone land line.
I love my parents dearly. In fact, they still live in my hometown of Cumberland, Maryland, cradled in the mountains of the western panhandle, and reside in the same house my brother, sister and I grew up in.
For one thing, they could care less about keeping up with the Joneses. In fact, they’d be quick to tell you the only Joneses they know are Davy, of The Monkees, and John Paul, the bassist for Led Zeppelin. Both of which have 45s prominently displayed in their rec room jukebox.
The fact they are just now cutting their landline ought to be a clue that my parents remain stuck in a bygone era. Most people dropped their home service in favor of cellphones ages ago.
Every visit to their house is a rewind through time because they haven’t upgraded the home's amenities since our childhood in the ’80s. For example, the only computer in the entire house is vintage early 1990s. This relic even has a dot matrix printer complete with the perforated edges that are impossible to pull off without tearing the paper.
Really though, the age of their computer doesn’t matter because they don’t have internet service — a fairly basic necessity nowadays. If we need contact with the outside world during our visits, we either have to “share” a nearby open network or liquor up the next-door neighbor until he willingly gives up his password — and occasionally his cookies.
Finding and maintaining cellphone service is also a nightmare due to the height of the Appalachian Mountains and depth of the valleys between, and it doesn’t matter which carrier you choose — believe me, we have tried them all over the years.
Coupled with the fact that my parents still contend they have no need for air conditioning of any kind (even a window unit), it’s no wonder our kids have dubbed Nana and Papa Rick’s “The Pioneer House.”
The home itself is a throwback to a bygone era. In the living room with the itchy furniture that hasn’t seen a backside in years sits an ancient cathode ray tube television enclosed in a standard faux wood cabinet circa late ’70s.
It hasn’t worked since a lightning strike fried it while we were huddled around watching the Opening Ceremony of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. But there it still sits, proudly displaying family photos from when feathering hair was a thing and before my younger brother’s enormous buck teeth were wrangled inside his mouth courtesy of braces and nighttime head gear that made him look like a drive-through clerk at a greasy fast food joint.
Perhaps like the smiling faces staring up at them from those vintage photographs, my parents are reluctant to get rid of the retro computer and non-functioning TV because they think it would mean letting go of the memories linked to these items.
Like that late night we spent going through nearly an entire box of printer paper trying to get the machine to feed properly so I’d have a book report to turn in at school in the morning. Or when we watched Penn State defeat Miami for the 1986 national championship on that old-school television hooting and hollering at the top of our lungs so loud that the neighbors came by to check on us.
I can understand why they are not quite ready to get rid of these “mementos.”
And honestly, though I may have earlier poked fun at the fact that cellphone and internet service is nearly obsolete in western Maryland, it can be refreshing not to be bothered by the outside world when we visit the folks.
For one thing no one has their head glued to their phones because they don’t work. And now that they no longer have a landline either — something most people gave up last decade — it will be doubly as difficult to phone home.
Come to think of it, though, maybe that was what my parents intended all along. More visit time and less talk and tech time. Well played, Mom and Dad. Well played, indeed.
Chanda Veno is managing editor at The State Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.