(She has no idea of the luxury of those limitless calls. Limitless long distance calls -- limitless because they're free. What will be the luxuries her children enjoy which bemuse her? What awaits my grandchildren?)
She is chatting with her friend Philippe. Philippe was the very likeable young man who spent a summer with us as an exchange student two years ago when he was 17 and Bekah not quite 13. English-speaking 17-year-olds from Ontario went to Quebec and New Brunswick to improve their French; French-speaking youths came here in exchange. A lanky young fellow, with an exuberant mop of red curls, Pilippe's soft-spoken easy-going ways and good humour endeared himself to the entire family.
Bekah, it seems, endeared herself particularly to him.
They've kept in touch through emails and IM, and most recently with the free phone calls. The conversation just flows between those two. Hours and hours of it. He's held her hand through a boyfriend and a breakup; she gives him (very sensible) advice re: family relationships and the appalling lack of greenery in his diet. I don't know what all else they might talk about over the hours. I'm not told.
I am of two minds about this relationship. I am not entirely comfortable with the amount of time she "spends" with him. Obviously, sex isn't an issue, which is a relief to me, because she's only 14. A physically mature 14, a very sensible and emotionally stable 14, but still fourteen. But still, she spends a lot of time on this one relationship. I worry some about balance in her life. I keep an eye on her, making sure that other activities and relationships are not suffering as a result. They don't seem to be, but I keep a cautious maternal eye on her.
On the other hand, and this hand weighs heavily, I am very pleased that one of the most significant relationships in her life revolves entirely around conversation. They have no shared activities. They have shared interests, but, separated by a thousand kilometres or so, they can't do them together. The can't watch movies together. They do occasionally play internet games together, but not often.
What they do is talk. And talk and talk and talk.
Yes, I do haul her out of her room. She eats meals with the family, chores get done, homework is accomplished, she spends time every day chatting with me. But they talk. Every day.
I recall an occasion when her father came to visit me over Christmas break. We were in our early twenties, maybe even in our late teens, and had each gone to our respective families for the holidays. But ten days was too long for our love-struck hearts to be separated, so he drove over to visit one day.
After visiting with my family, we were desperate for some time together, so we went for a drive, chatting idly about this or that thing out the window, and ended up having a coffee in a roadside diner somewhere. We sat on opposite sides of the table ... and the conversation shrivelled. We had nothing to say to each other. Nothing.
He held my hand. We smiled at each other. But we had nothing to say.
Why did I go ahead and marry this man, when conversation is so desperately important to me? Well, at the time I didn't know that. I didn't know at lot of things at 19 or 20. It took twelve years of a conversation-free marriage to teach me how my soul craves conversation. Not just mindless words, words, words tossed out, cluttering the air -- though there's certainly a place for casual, idle, and functional chatter. But conversation: a steady flow of interest in the other, the exchange of ideas, the building-up of new ideas as a joint creative enterprise.
To me, that's the bedrock of a relationship. Fundamental, foundational, indispensible.
And for twelve years, I lived without it.
I married him because I was young and stupid and "in love". We loved each other! Conversation would come, right? I didn't realize that "in love" would not create something that didn't exist. I didn't realize that "in love" would parch to dust and blow away in the desert of silence and strictly-functional communication.
Bekah, in her room, chatters away. There is no lack of conversation with those two. Their relationship is not, as mine was with her father at the same point in the relationship timeline, built primarily on hormones and the physical.
So, though the amount of time she spends with this one friend does cause me some concern, the quality of the relationship reassures. If he is going to become someone significant in her life -- someone even more significant -- they are going about it the right way.
But I'm still glad he lives in New Brunswick.