One of the Gen 2 nephews was gazing over my shoulder as I looked for something online.
“Those are Victorian antique chairs,” he said, pointing to a photo on a yard sale site. “That’s the kind of stuff Grammy Jill liked.” He was referring to his paternal grandmother, who had passed away just a few months ago.
“Yes, she did,” I agreed. “She and I liked a lot of the same things.”
I was looking online for an image of someone using a shuttle to weave cloth, as the young teen was questioning the purpose of a shuttle he’d discovered among the “treasures” a certain young man had uncovered when rummaging through the closet and furniture in his room.
“Do you know what a shuttle is?” I asked.
He replied with a grin, “A spacecraft?” I did my best to explain how the space shuttle got its name from a shuttle that carries yarn back and forth in the textile weaving process. I found a video of a woman operating a loom at Washington’s Mount Vernon to illustrate my very brief “lesson.” He understood.
His next question made me chuckle. He picked up a heavy, rotary dial telephone that’s at least 50-60 years old. “Can you show me how to use this?”
“OK. Say you wanted to call your Dad.” I dialed the numbers as he recited them. “Takes a bit longer than a cell phone, doesn’t it?” I inquired.
He responded, “Ah, I thought maybe you started here (at the zero) and stopped at the number you needed, let it go back, then went to the next number.”
Not wanting to rattle his brain too much, I didn’t bother explaining how at one time a caller needed an operator to place a call or how there were party lines, and it was necessary to recognize one’s “ring” to know if the call was for him or her.
He had another question. This one concerned the letters on the telephone dial. “Can you text with these letters?”
“Afraid not,” I said and told him how early phone numbers combined letters and numbers, as in KE-23456. I wanted to tell him the history of the telephone as it related to my lifespan, but
feared he’d doze off before I got to the part about private lines versus party lines, so I refrained.
“You’re learning a lot here today,” I declared, and, pointing to a piece of furniture, inquired, “Do you know what this is?”
“An antique,” he replied, grinning.
“It’s a washstand. Do you know what that is?” He did not, so I explained that in the days before indoor plumbing and daily showers, this is how a person got ready to face the day.
I could see the wheels turning in his head. The poor kid had opened a can of worms in which his ancient Aunt Bo delighted.
But soon it was time for his father to pick him up. “You got quite an education today,” I advised. “Make sure to share all that new information with your Dad.”
Next time he’s here, I’m sure we’ll have more “teachable moments.” I should start working on my lesson plans now.