“Leave a message at the tone . . .”


For many years phone calls to our home that went to the answering machine received this message:

“You’ve reached ###-####. Please leave a message for Rob, Cathy or Justin and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks.”

Sounds pretty typical of what one hears on an answering machine, right? But for our family, the message was actually an audio time capsule. That’s because the message was delivered in a kid’s reedy voice: my son’s voice, to be exact.

Our answering machine preserved a moment of time, much as prehistoric insects are preserved in amber. I believe hearing the message unconsciously reminded us of time’s inexorable onward march. Justin grew and changed but his voice did not.

Recently the answering machine’s backup batteries finally gave up the ghost. I learned a hard truth when I went to replace them with fresh batteries, for one of the backups’ jobs was to preserve the recorded greeting message. When the batteries died so Justin’s message.

The reality left me feeling philosophical and a little sad. I acknowledged that my son was now a young man but knew I’d miss hearing the words that echoed down from from his adolescence.


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