Movies, video games, and television transport us back to era’s past. Like most 80’s kids watching Guardians of the Galaxy made me yearn for a Walkman and briefly regret throwing out my awesome cassette collection.
Likewise, Antiques Road Show and American Pickers reminds us that sometimes-retaining objects can result in them increasing in value. Collectables are not always predictable or many of my loved ones beanie baby collections would have replaced their pensions.
Instead, the monetary value of collectables is measured only in their ability to evoke meaning from a specific culture or era, a feeling people are willing to pay to recapture. Sometimes people see a be-be-gun or comic book and return to a time when they felt safe, loved, or innocent.
When I helped my grandmother plan her 50th wedding anniversary celebration we sorted and scanned hundreds of family photos. In these photos my own likeness peered back through decades of my aunties, grandmothers, and cousins sitting together in my great-great-great-aunt’s Formica kitchen table. In that kitchen, that forgot it was once a porch, existed an object that exuded for me a feeling of safety and love: my aunts yellow rotary phone.
Even in black and white photos it is easy to spot my treasured yellow phone as a permanent fixture in the periphery. The kitchen where that phone hung no longer exists. As I wrote in a recent blog Honey’s house on East California was bulldozed for commercial zoning.
The empty dirt lot that is left where the modest house once stood still makes me sad. But I remind myself that bulldozers cannot take away traditions that remind us who we are. A few days ago I turned 33 and enjoyed a quiet celebration with my twin and our husbands at the same ice cream parlor we have frequented since our youth. My aunt Honey, the owner of the legendary phone, left to be with Jesus almost ten years ago we still feel her presence when we celebrate our birthday the way we use to with her.
The day following our dinner my mother came for an impromptu visit from out of town. I am not embarrassed to write that I ugly snot cried when I opened my gift and found my aunt’s yellow phone inside. Before the construction crews started work on the house my mother drove down to Bakersfield and harvested windows, doorknobs, and one magical banana yellow rotary phone.
I do not have a landline to connect my new vintage phone because as I described above it is not about being practical. To me this phone is a mystical object that has been cradled by generations of Cruz women. The same women who held babies, constructed tamales, and shared their lives through its receiver. I know it is only an old rotary phone but for me it represents joy.