The Phone Spot

I got my first iPhone when I was ten, shortly after Tommy was born. Before that, I could make a call on our family’s mobile, but it was kept in the car most of the time, which was where it charged. We weren’t totally stone-aged. We all used the Internet and Dad was positively addicted.

During summers at our cabin, Dad hated having to drive practically all the way to North Fork to use the Internet or make a phone call. The summer Mom was pregnant with Tommy, Dad was frantic to find an easier way to connect. He said it was dangerous to be in such a remote place with no means of communication.

In preparation, Dad plotted locations of cell towers on his topographic maps and made calculations to identify likely live spots near our cabin. We delayed leaving Claremont until Dad got his iPhone. It was the first model ever released, June 29, 2007.

When we finally got to the cabin Dad found that the nearest potential hot spots were no good. I was afraid we’d have to go back to Claremont, but Mom insisted there was no problem. That must be what drove Dad up the big ridge north of the cabin. It took him all morning to make his way up and back, but he was grinning broadly with the prospect of connectivity within walking distance. I went with him in the afternoon to scout out a good alignment for a trail.

We wanted the route to be as safe and short as possible. Dad and I worked at setting out markers for the alignment until we no longer could see each other in the late evening light. At dinner he said I was the best ten-year-old helper he could imagine.

My legs would hardly get me out of bed the next morning. At daybreak Mom was already cooking a big breakfast and Dad was out looking for our good digging shovel.

“Shannon, did you take the garden shovel down to the river?” he asked, coming around from the back where we usually planted a few vegetables.

“I thought you were using it to clear vegetation away from the water intake.”

“Oh, yeah. Run up and get it, would you please?”

My muscles were killing me on the way up to the water supply pond, but I was pleased with myself for knowing where to find the shovel. I should have been annoyed, but instead I snagged a big handful of watercress for Mom, the shovel for Dad, and jogged back for breakfast—forgetting all about the stiffness in my calves and thighs.

Trail building was the only thing we did for almost two weeks. The shortest reasonable route was a couple of miles long with steep, rocky sections near the top that required four short switchbacks. Dad worked with the pickaxe and the pry bar, moving heavy rocks and cutting through a few bad spots. I used hand tools to place rocks I could roll into position to mark the trail edge. Sometimes I had to fill holes with small rocks or form some type of step. On the lower slope I built markers to show the way from point to point. Eventually our footsteps beat an obvious path and we made numerous improvements.

Mom wasn’t allowed on the trail until we were finished. On the big day we each brought our own computer and Dad had his new iPhone. I led the expedition, going slowly for Mom and pointing out the worst of the many hazards. Dad walked closely behind Mom carrying a folding lawn chair for her and hovering in case she slipped.

“Will you two please stop treating me like an invalid?” she complained. “My Tommy tummy isn’t that huge. I can see your beautiful trail perfectly well.”

Back at the cabin Dad laid down the law. He had a way of making proclamations that Mom did not question unless she had a serious objection. I usually didn’t hesitate to object, but if Mom didn’t come to my defense I knew it was a lost cause.

“Meera, I don’t want you or your mother going up there alone.”

“What do you mean by that? What if you guys are busy when I need to check my e-mail?”

“You heard me, Meera. No going alone. Angela either.”

I looked at Mom expecting her to object, but she just met my eyes and gave the tiny nod that meant, “no means no.”

As the pregnancy progressed Mom quit going to the phone spot so I had to wait until Dad had something to do up there. He started using Mom’s lawn chair. I had a favorite boulder with a perfect butt-place oriented so that my body shaded my computer screen in late afternoon. It was nice to be at the phone spot with Dad, but I thought I should be able to go by myself since I had helped build the trail and all.

“Meera, it’s too far to go on your own no matter how well you know the trail.”

“But Dad, I walk to school and all over Claremont.”

“That’s totally different. There’s no one around here to even know if something happened. It’s a whole hour up and an hour back, plus however many hours you spend playing games up here. I don’t want to have to come looking for you.”

The rule changed right after Tommy was born. We were staying at the cabin for a week or so rather than taking the bad road to town. Dad made a new rule that one of us should be with Mom and Tommy at all times. This meant that he went to the phone spot without me.

“That is so unfair! I can’t even tell my friends about Tommy. You go up there whenever you want. I should be able to go when I want.”

“Jeffery, if Meera’s old enough to help deliver a baby, I think she should be able to go to the phone spot alone.”

I got my first iPhone as soon as we were back in Claremont, and every summer since Tommy was born, I’ve been allowed to go to the phone spot on my own.