True stories with a twist!

This afternoon I went out to a local diner with an 85 year old woman no longer able to drive. It was a treat to be with her, and I enjoyed listening to her stories while nibbling a cheese and bacon sandwich. Helen is a water color artist, and is lucky enough to have a beautifully alert and creative mind.

I learned that she trained in graphic design, and graduated from Cooper Union College in New York. She was hired for the position of typesetter; something quite unusual back in the 1940s. “Women just didn’t have those kinds of jobs then,” she explained. Although hired as a graphic designer she was initially asked to wash and dry used paint brushes and empty used paint water. “There was very little, if any, respect shown to women in the workplace then” she said, “but that attitude only made me more stubborn to succeed and more determined to show them a thing or two!”

As I was listening to her story my eye kept wandering to a table near ours with a mother and daughter having lunch alone together. The girl looked about ten years old. What a lovely thing to do with a young daughter, I thought.images-10 She and her mother will chat and be easy companions at the perfect time: just before adolescence sets in and the silent treatment begins.

But the silent treatment already had begun. Not because the young girl was giving her mother the silent treatment, but because the mother was giving it to her child. Mom was so enthralled with her cell phone, images-9that she was totally involved with reading her terribly important emails. She barely noticed her child siting across the table from her.

How must that child have felt? What could she be thinking? Could she have felt anything but rejected? Could she think of anything but how unimportant she was to her mother?

In a strange way I saw the parallels between Helen’s story of disrespect for working women in her generation and this young girl at lunch being disrespected and disregarded by her mother. I hope she has the “gumption” (to use a word from the 40s) to use her mother’s lack of attention as a challenge to be acknowledged in her future.

But for now, can you just see that future unfolding in her family? The resentment building, the desire to escape from an indifferent parent; to find someone to speak to? The need to feel important to someone?

And we wonder why children from “good homes” wind up so disconnected from their families…

Comments on: "LET’S HAVE LUNCH" (42)

  1. What a wonderful story and what an interesting observation. The little girl and the 85-year-old woman both having so much in common. How sad that there are so many things to take away Mom’s attention. I wonder how it will affect these children? When the 85-year-old was a little girl, her mother might have been distracted sewing clothing or busy with cooking which took forever in those days. But at least Mom was contributing to the welfare of the family instead of checking her facebook or her e-mails. I wonder how all our “distractions” will affect the next generation?

  2. What a beautiful post, Ronnie, so thought provoking and yes, food for thought for all those cell phone addicts out there. And the frantic texting these youngsters do all the time can drive people bonkers!

  3. fransiweinstein said:

    It drives me insane when I see people checking emails when they are at a restaurant with friends or spouses or kids. Take a break for heaven sake and pay some attention to whomever you’re with. It is so rude!

  4. I have seen that also. It is sad. One time, I saw a man and a woman having dinner together, but not. They were both on their cell phones with someone else.

  5. We went to the beach yesterday and it was interesting to watch the different families. Some (thankfully most) parents were very involved (playing or watching/photographing if the kids were fully engaged with a pile of sand), while others looked bothered if the kids interrupted their phones or thoughts. Interestingly the kids with the engaged parents were notably better behaved.

    • Interesting observation. It makes sense that the children of involved parents are better behaved because of the feedback and comments they receive from their parents. But I always feel sad whenever I see a parent ignoring a small child.

  6. Ronnie, This is the first time I have visited your blog. I came via Yummy Chunklet because of your blog’s name. I live in NJ and grew up in Morris County(Randolph). I also worked in Morristown many years ago, for Beneficial when it was on South St. I have just read several of your posts and thoroughly enjoyed your lovely writing. I will be adding you to my reader.
    Nice to meet you!
    Cell phones are a vehicle for normally intelligent people to behave badly. I always wonder how cashiers feel, as they check-out someone, who continues a conversation on their cell phone, totally ignoring the cashier and treating them as a non-person. One of my pet peeves. Sad to see a parent do that to their child.

    • I forgot to mention, my daughter graduated from The Cooper Union, in Architecture. Great school!

    • Welcome to my blog; nice to meet you too. Thank you for commenting and following; ‘good to have another (former) NJ-ite among us. I love your line, “Cell phones are a vehicle for normally intelligent people to behave badly.” Touche!

      Congratulations on your daughter’s graduation from Cooper Union. I hope her opportunities are greater than they were for women in the ’40s.

  7. lisa honecker said:

    Ronnie, great story . . . reflective piecing the two incidents together. I just had the part of the same experience watching a group of mothers on their cell phones while their kids were doing dangerous things in a swimming pool. Mothers in complete oblivion ignoring events swirling around them. Thumbs way up to this story.

    Lisa H.

    • Lisa, it seems from the comments I’ve received about this post that we all have been subject to similar scenes of mothers ignoring children while giving full attention to their conversations on cell phones.

  8. Ronnie, I like the way you made the connection between the disrespect of women in the workplace and the way that little girl was being ignored by her own mother. We seem to be forgetting how to pay attention to the people right around us. Why is that electronic connection so much more important? (To say nothing of the celebrities who have us enthralled with every insignificant thing they do.) Thanks for being one of the exceptions.

    • Thanks you for considering me one of the exceptions. Are you the one who kept eavesdropping at the supermarket as I pushed my children along in the cart, commenting on the varieties of shapes and colors lining the shelves?

  9. Snoring Dog Studio said:

    Gosh, I hate cell phones. They don’t bring people closer together; they alienate us. Wake up, people! You’re not that important!

  10. What a great idea to sit down and talk to the child… it’s heart-breaking isn’t it… not so rampant here yet, but bound to be as time goes by. I already see the mothers with their ear-phones or talking to their friends while they push their child or baby in a push-chair that faces away from them, so there’s no eye contact, or communication,
    Apparently babies are talked to less than they used to be…oh dear….

    • …and as my training in speech therapy taught me, babies learn language by hearing it spoken to them. These mothers you describe are missing wonderful opportunities to teach their children coherent speaking skills.

  11. You articulate thoughts I’ve often had, myself. One of my “On the Train” posts fairly recently spoke to this very thing – a Japanese man, likely a therapist, chatting away on his cellphone to a client while he barked orders to his son with hand gestures. I wonder about such things quite a bit, actually.

  12. Yet another way cell phones have ruined everything!

  13. All we can do is what we are doing. Personally I think the internet will implode, lets hope it comes in time. We are the lucky ones who grew up without a phone. i have been wondering lately if restaurants should try again to instate the no phones at the tables rule. Do you remember when cell phones first started to make their presence felt it was frowned on if you brought them out in a restaurant. Anyway the most important part of the day was yarning with your old friend over a sandwich. The old Codger and I love our lunches. He comes from a generation who went out to eat a lot, so taking your elderly friend out to lunch was a great thing to do. c

    • Thanks, Celi. I do enjoy the company of older folks and enjoy their stories about the olden days. The restaurants who instituted the no phone rule should definitely reinstate it. What a great advertising campaign they could run: “People welcome.Cell phones not so much!”

  14. Ronnie.. as much as this is on the button.. I have to add my bit as well… I love to sit and watch animals interact, which I think is obvious from my blog… however when ever in a mall or out to eat with Linda I will look around to observe the two legged animal as well… my observation.?? The kids are also sitting with the terrible contraptions in their hands either texting or googling or whatever it is they do with these phones… conversing with friends maybe, what ever… but the art of communicating with your kids is being lost because of cell phones… now we have a good relationship with our kids, as they grew up before the cell phone… but we have noticed now, that when we visit these items pop out every now and then… my simple question..”should we go, are there other people you want to talk to??” phones get ignored after that… I personally hate the things and mine is for the family and business… family I’ll answer anytime, business only during business hours…

    • That is a wonderful answer: “Should we go; are there other people you would rather talk to?” May I borrow that question?
      You’re right, though; the younger generation is rarely without one of those contraptions in their hands. Perhaps it’s a plan to destroy civilization!

  15. You are “dead on” with this one, Ronnie, for most families. I had a somewhat different experience…, with my son. As much as I tried to be with him and interact with him he did his best to ignore me in favor of his friends parents, sports coaches, and almost anyone else. To this day (and he’s 45), this condition still exists between us. I will call him periodically but it’s been almost 5 yrs since he has called/emailed/written me. Sad ! I understand what you were writing about though. Like you, I see it almost every day and even when you mention it to those involved, they don’t really seem to care. The kids are the ones who suffer.

    • I a sorry about your relationship with your son. Families are bizarre. Every single one seems to have one person who isn’t speaking to another. That is so terribly hurtful. Who can understand other people’s perceptions or motivations?

  16. Ronnie … You nailed it. The more ways we have to communicate, the less we do so. I’ve seen similar situations. It’s a heart breaker. Remember the song “Cat in the Cradle?” Dad was always too busy to play with or be with his son as he was growing up. When the Dad was ready for interaction, he noted that his son “grew up to be just like me.”

    When we were on vacation, a couple at our hotel was having what could have been a romantic dinner outside on the cafe tables. A nice spread. A bottle of wine. And, they were each texting someone rather than talking to each other. Missed opportunities to connect.

  17. This is an alarmingly true post. I have seen the same thing recently, and I felt so sorry for the child being ignored.

  18. This is one of my pet peeves. My grandson already tells us to get off the phone. I hate seeing babysitters/parents wheeling kids in strollers and they’re so plugged in to music or phones that the kids aren’t talked to. You should have said something to the mother!!!

  19. Anonymous said:

    Ronnie – what sensitive, thoughtful person you are. The elderly lady was lucky to have your company and you were lucky to be the one to hear her stories of another time. That poor little girl – wish we could have her mother read your blog

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