“You know what I miss?” he asked me recently, “I miss the you and me before iPhones.”
This was not a passive aggressive attempt to make me put down my phone during a movie or during breakfast. In fact, I don’t think either of us was even on our phones when he said it. It wasn’t said in a critical tone. It certainly wasn’t said with the intention of either of us actually giving them up. It was merely a moment in which I caught him being pensive and vulnerable, obviously having just reminisced some fond medialess memory.
He didn’t even need to elaborate, because I knew in an instant everything he was thinking and feeling. In this case, he was referring to simpler days—the general ones—the ones before rigid schedules and being on call for multiple people; before the days when we had the money to afford recorded television; before our kids had phones of their own; before the days of being easily tracked and held accountable for every moment in our day.
When I was a kid, only James Bond or Inspector Gadget had the resources to pursue someone to the degree of being able to pin their coordinates from a wristwatch or a phone tucked into a trench coat pocket, reserved, I’m sure, for only their enemies—never to locate wives to ask where the extra toilet paper has been stored. Convenience can be easily confused with freedom, when in reality this seemingly harmless Pop Tart-sized device is the very opposite of freedom. The thing we all love and cradle and study is actually our leash.
While I do miss the “simpler days” myself (dreams of diaper-clad babies running around our tiny house, stretching our dollar with yet another soup recipe, worried that I wouldn’t make it to the gym because of cranky nap-deprived children, coming home to a blinking answering machine), I try not to flatter the past too much. After all, I recall lots of complaining even then—lots of wishing for bigger homes, bigger paychecks, potty trained children, purpose outside of being a stay-at-home mom. I complained that things were too simple. I am currently living the very life I dreamed of then—it seems ungrateful and foolish to over romanticize what was.
We’ll always be on this technologically-advancing timeline; always cursing the future with open arms, always nostalgic for the things we couldn’t get rid of fast enough. All I can do is strive for balance. I know the issue—the “you know what I miss?” issue—isn’t really even completely about runaway technology. It’s only an issue of losing time. We’re sad that we may have died on too many hills, lost in all the things that temporarily medicate, worried that we didn’t live fully enough in the moment. We look back, filled with regret for not holding on tighter . . . as though we actually possessed the ability to slow things down. I would guess every generation had it’s version of iPhones and regrets, but still things never slowed. I know we’re not the first to have that wish.
While my husband was away for work and my kids were in school, I was home making beds. A song from long ago came streaming through the speaker on the nightstand. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up a little. It triggered memories, bittersweet ones that involved a mixed tape with this very song nestled between others. In fact it threw me for such a loop when I heard it, that it seemed almost out of context without it being bookended by its sister songs of 1996. It sounded too clean, missing the messiness of the traits of a third generation cassette tape. It still stopped me in my bed-making tracks. My feet pulled me away and began doing their own clumsy thing, the rest of me along for the two minute ride. In the midst of doing what I call dancing, I realized how long it had been since I had moved like this. It made me a little sad. I missed dancing with my college roommate. I missed dancing like a lunatic with my new husband in our first apartment. I missed dancing with my newborn babies attached to my chest. I missed the late night dance parties with our toddlers in our tiny house. Warm tears welled up as I thought about how fleeting it all is, grateful for the moments that shake the life back into my feet.