I was recently given the opportunity to revise four more previously published Jigsaw Jones books. Now there are 12 updated titles available from Macmillan — books that had gone out of print over the past five years or so — in addition to two all-new titles (14 in all). The books I revised weren’t ancient, generally around 15 years old, and I knew the stories were solid. Of course, there are things I’d want to change about every book, even on the first day of publication. What’s the old adage? “Books are never completed, only abandoned.” They can always be better. So it was a welcome pleasure to go back, improve what I could, try again.
One striking aspect reflected in these books is the profound change in our phones — and how deeply those new gadgets have transformed our lives. I was born in 1961. But until the advent of the personal cell phone, my childhood experience with phones was fairly standard for decades. In most homes, there was one phone number, one phone, maybe an extension or two. A line in the kitchen and another in the family room. Later on, a few fancy parents even had phones in their bedrooms. Usually all the same number. All calls came in and out through that central brain. In my house, the phone would ring, somebody would rush to it expectantly, listen a moment, then shout out in a teasing voice, “Barbara! It’s for you . . . and it’s a boy!”
It was a form of home security. Everybody in the house knew what was up. Strange callers had to get through a least one checkpoint. Many of us remember those teenage calls when a difficult parent answered the phone. It went something like this . . .
Mr. Flynn: Hello, Flynn residence.
JP: Is Rosie home?
Mr. Flynn: To whom am I speaking?
JP: Oh, yeah, er, hi, Mr. Flynn. It’s Jimmy. Is Rosie home?
Mr. Flynn: She is.
JP: [pause] Um, can I talk to her?
Mr. Flynn: You can.
JP: [longer pause] I mean, may I talk to her? Speak with her? Can she come, may she come, is there any way I can —
Mr. Flynn: We’re about to sit down for dinner. Rosie will call you later, after she’s finished her homework. Click.
Consider for a moment all the information that was conveyed in that brief, awkward exchange. Mr. Flynn was not only aware that a boy was calling for his daughter, he actually spoke with that boy, got a sense of his manners and intelligence. He also managed to maintain a degree of control, “Rosie will call you later.” The gatekeeper. Today we talk about the loss of privacy, but the reverse is also true: sometimes there’s far too much privacy. Today a 10-year-old with her own phone has all sorts of communications and access to the internet without any family involvement whatsoever. No idea! Anyway, that’s a huge topic and not the purview of this post.
Mostly I want to say: Look at those phones, what a transformational shift in our family lives. Note: for the revisions, we deleted those dated images and I reworked the text accordingly.
Sidenote: I just read yet another article about the latest phone horror in a local high school. Young men making secret videos in school without consent, posting them on the internet, accomplished in the blink of an eye — a felony offense with devastating impacts on multiple students. There are articles like this everyday. These new phones are small miracles — but powerful and addictive. We hand them to 9-year-olds on their birthdays, and they only wonder what the heck took so long.
Sidenote 2: I fear all this makes me look like an old coot, “Back in my day!” But that’s my reality. I remember how it was, and naturally compare it to how we live today. I found it interesting to see those changes reflected so clearly — and so quickly — in the relatively short time covered by this book series.
Sidenote 3: I love my phone, don’t get me wrong. But I’m also afraid of it.