Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Coming Home to Birmingham

I cried the night before I got married. I cried because I was leaving Birmingham, Alabama – this time for good. Of course I knew that things would not stay the same, and that I could never recapture the feeling of home. Leaving for college is one thing, but leaving with a husband with a military career ahead of him was quite another.

Over the years I came home a few times each year. When my mother was dying, I came more often, and two years later, when my father was dying I stayed for several weeks at a time. Gradually most friends and relatives moved away or passed away.

This past week I came home to Birmingham for a family reunion I had arranged for my father’s family. It was great fun to see everyone, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

We had a little time to drive around town, so I loaded by husband, son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren into a rented van and I gave them a guided tour on the old roads.

Driving down the street in Birmingham I see what “is” with my eyes and with my memory I see what “was.” Nothing much has stayed the same and there are memories everywhere I turn.

See that building that says Dialysis Center; we used to go there every Sunday afternoon for ice cream.

See that boarded up apartment building that looks like a castle; my aunt used to live there.

See that flat area over there beside the freeway; my high school was there. They built a new one and I have no idea where.

There’s our old house where my parents lived for 1958 until 1989; it looks great! What is that music? Oh, it is a mariachi band in the carport across the street.

There’s the 16th Street Baptist Church; that Easter Sunday bombing changed everything. That was the deep wound, after which the city knew it had to heal.

That is the house where we lived until 1958. See where that carport is; that was where I had my swing set. My grandmother had a beautiful garden in the backyard. They have torn off the brick railing and replaced it with wrought iron.

That’s my old elementary school. I wonder why they have a giant antenna in the front of it. Strange! See they cut down the one tree on the playground.

See that boarded up department store; that is where we used to shop. Yes, we used to get all dressed up to go downtown to shop. It was an all day thing.

See that shopping center. I remember when it opened with just a few stores in 1958. No, all of the others are new. Yes, the Shell station has always been there on the corner.

The list goes on and on. Memories pile onto memories. I can’t stop the flow!

I love Birmingham, but I know I can never go home again. The people who defined my life are mostly gone; the places have all changed. I will find excuses to come back to visit from time to time. There is a compulsion to watch the changes.

My life is in Maryland now. In the 31 years we have lived there I have seen many changes, but I have had a chance to internalize them. I don’t have to relive the memories every time I drive down the road. I can live in the moment, and that has to have some value!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Bluetooth Headset

I finally broke down and got a Bluetooth headset. A few years ago, I tried a borrowed one, and it drove me nuts, so I returned it. But Friday afternoon I decided I had to have one. Why? I don’t know!

There has to be something to it. If there wasn’t why would all sorts of people being wearing the things? I have to admit that driving and holding a cell phone is not a good thing. I also have to admit that rummaging through my purse or grabbing at my waist to answer a call is not much fun either. So maybe with this little device I will have less aggravation in my life and be safer on the road.

Of course, the units, especially the one that I bought, resemble a giant cockroach with a blue light (which is sometimes red or purple) embedded in its head. What’s not to love?

I bought a small, very lightweight and too expensive model. The instructions had to be located online (no small feat) and downloaded and printed out. I followed them to the letter and nothing happened, so I took it back to the store. Actually, I thought it wouldn’t work with my cellular phone, and wanted to return it. But it was non-returnable because it sticks in your ear. The sales manager quickly got it operational and I was good to go. I still wasn't sure why I was doing this, but...

A key thing about Bluetooth is that it has to “pair” with another Bluetooth device. My cell-phone and the headset have to find one another. In this particular electronic device mating ritual, the cell phone first has to have its Bluetooth turned on. And very quickly, it is necessary to get the headset to get in the mood for mating. You know it is ready when it flashes red, then blue. The boom, they are connected! Now for most phones and headsets, that is the end of it. But, of course, I would have some compatibility issues, and my headset has to be rebooted following pairing --every time. I wonder if a Bluetooth counselor could help them work out their differences?

I wore the headset Saturday night while cooking dinner. Not that I was expecting any important calls, but it was my new toy and I wanted to try it out. My husband chuckled as he asked me if I was going to be wearing it all the time. He said that he always had a compulsion to ask headset wearers how are things on the mothership. Clearly he did not share my excitement!

It supposedly can handle voice dialing – that is if I buy a program for my phone and teach the phone how to understand my speech. I am not sure I up to tutoring my cell phone and trying to get it to come to terms with my southern accent. But it certainly would be cool not to have to dial the phone in the car. Pulling over to the side is a drag! We’ll see!

It does work – provided I cater to its rebooting needs. Tomorrow is Monday. I should be getting lots of calls. I will try it out again –this time for real! I could try wearing it into the grocery store. It is, after all, a very cool fashion accessory. I admit it would look better with the long hair, huge hooprs, hip-huggers and a athletic shoes favored by the younger generation. But maybe it will look OK with my short hair, old lady cropped pants, clip on earrings and clogs. And if it doesn’t – who cares!

I finally figured out why i had to have one. And this is a REALLY, REALLY good reason!

This is really all about being able to type on my laptop with two hands while talking on the phone. Life’s too short to do one thing at a time! You know you are truly multi-taking when you are having an email conversation (unrelated to the call) with someone who is on the same group conference call you are on. So bring on those calls and simultaneous emails!