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Life Notes: New Year, Old Address Book         
So much more than a worn list of numbers

I almost succumbed. I almost betrayed a part of my past that deserves some loyalty and respect.

But as we approached a new year, there I was, staring at my tattered address book with the blue cover that once boasted a sassy cloth flower when it was younger than springtime, like its owner. But that was long ago. The address book and I have been down many roads together since that daisy was perky – and so was I.

The book was given to me one Mother’s Day when our daughters couldn’t think of any other gift and their finances were shaky.

“Wasn’t this blue?” observant middle daughter Amy recently asked. She had spotted it perched on a small cart in our kitchen near the wall phone that still delivers our calls and messages right along with our no-frills cell phones. This middle daughter noted that her mother’s address book had faded to an uncertain blue-gray.

“And you still have it?” Yes, Amy, I do. And that did it. No way was I going to greet 2018 with a tech toy. There are too many of them in my life already. That book, with its blurred names, addresses, too many crossed out losses of friends, will stick with me.

One exception: I have not, will not, cross out my late mother’s address and phone number. I had foolishly crossed out my father’s office number – he predeceased mom by decades. And now I can’t remember that number I once called every day just to say, “Hello, Daddy, how’s your day going?” So now, that once-familiar number is gone forever.

So yes, coffee stains, flyaway pages and all, I’m holding on to my book. I wonder sometimes whether it’s partly because my mother also had one. Referred to as “my red book,” it was her 1950s version of a smart phone, central to the running of our household.

I can still picture her studying it to find the phone number of the neighborhood butcher, the beauty shop where she had a wash and set on Fridays, and her posse, the Thursday Night Discussion Group ladies, who pondered parenthood together.

That red leather book was her navigation system through the domestic terrain that defined her life. And now my old blue one is kind of the CliffsNotes of my life.

Somewhere in a basement carton, I still have the battered one I’d kept during early marriage. The pediatrician, our cherished babysitters, the contacts for the Girl Scouts car pool, and yes, the number for the kid who used to do odd jobs for us – gone in one of those car accidents that makes you hug your own kids closer.

Even then as now, it was tough to eliminate the names of friends, colleagues, relatives and neighbors, as too many funerals pushed into our lives. Always too soon.

And oh, the career changes I chronicled. Editors for whom I’d proudly written. The wonderful gynecologist who closed her practice when she felt too discouraged by the new medical landscape – all “erased” from my life.

Who knew that I would have so many Zs that now fill the lines on the last pages of my current book because one of our daughters married a man whose family name begins with Z? Who knew I would have so many additions – and subtractions – to the way things once were? I’m left with a blurry, unlikely portrait of my life in ballpoint pen and occasional crayon.

As another year stuns me with its arrival, my old address book won’t let me forget what once was, and yes, what still is. And for all of that, there’s certainly reason enough to set aside a little bit of space.

January 2018
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