The Phone Tree

Maybe I’m dating myself a bit by referencing a “phone tree” because I’m sure we can all just text each other now, but if you grew up with me, you knew what a phone tree did. You knew that if there was inclement weather, one mom would call another mom who would call another mom until finally you heard from your mom that there was no school today (no offense. I’m sure dads participated too. I was just on a roll…) It was truly a family lifeline.

Actually, there’s this great scene in my favorite movie Practical Magic where Sally Owens is wishing that she’ll be at the top of the phone tree because that spot is given to the most responsible parent. Of course, Sally Owens (played by Sandra Bullock) was not, and so her sister, Gilly Owens (Nicole Kidman) had to do a bit of magic on her part to give her the coveted role in the phone tree. But it all worked out for the best. (They later use the phone tree to assemble a coven of witches to banish a creepy ex-boyfriend. Ah, the little things.)

So, even though the phone tree has gone the way of snail mail and small towns, I still feel as though there is a sense that it is important. It shows that there’s someone there who is willing to keep you in the loop about something. In many ways, it certainly does carry with it some responsibility.

Now, imagine my surprise when I got involved in my own little 21st century phone tree this evening.

There was a wicked storm brewing while I was driving home. No thunder, but lightning crashing in bright, forked streaks. The sky was a healthy shade of bruise, with purple and yellow tinges. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, stuck behind car after car of rush hour traffic, I felt my own car resist the wind, as it picked up.

Knowing I had nowhere to go but forward, (as soon as the person in front of me let off the breaks, that is), I waited patiently (sort of).

And then the phone calls started. My mother and my boyfriend were first. They told me to pull over on the side of the road and wait it out. Didn’t I know that there was a tornado warning? (Well, I hadn’t heard it from any meteorologist, but I could certainly tell from Mother Nature.) I tsked at their fear and decided to move on. And what good would it do me if I died from crashing into the person next to me after talking on the phone during a tornado?

About 2 hours later (when the trip was supposed to take me 45 minutes), I rolled up into my driveway. And the phone rang again. My sister. Was I home yet? Walking through the door,  I heard another phone call in progress, “Yes, she’s home.” After all the stress I had endured, I almost hulked out. I thought, Why don’t we just jump on the local cable program and tell everyone in my hometown that I’m home? Now the party can really start…

But then I had a moment of clarity, as I am prone to do. This phone tree of sorts wasn’t a nuisance (even though I was the trunk of it, relaying information to all of my branches. Not very efficient.) It was just a way for my entire family to express their love for me.

Most of the time, “I love yous” don’t come in the form of a dozen red roses. I have come to realize that many of these moments,”Did you get home safe?” or “Be careful,” are true testaments of love. For a brief moment in an otherwise long day, my family’s thoughts were turned to me and my well being. That was a truly unusual feeling when I had just spent hours being another statistic in a traffic equation. I felt acknowledged. I felt wanted. And of course, loved.

So, I stopped being grinchy, and let the phone tree from my family tree happen. Like old phone cord lines, it’s hard to disentangle yourself from your loved ones. I’m glad I don’t have to.

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