Je téléphone, tu téléphones, elle téléphone …

September 8, 2009

It wouldn’t be a holiday without phoning your grandparents.

Piaf likes phones, especially mobiles. She likes pressing the buttons. She loves changing the settings. She adores transferring foodstuffs from her evening meal to the screen. And occasionally, very occasionally, she deigns to talk to the person at the other end.

 To be fair, it must be an odd experience. There’s me, instructing her in one language to talk to an invisible voice in another language outside any tangible context.

 And yet she knows what the phone is for. When there is no one on the line, she will often press the handset experimentally to one ear and venture the international telephone greeting, “‘allo?” She is happy to use the speaker of her baby monitor as an ersatz walkie talkie (or, as she will one day know to call it in French, “le talkie walkie”.) Perhaps most surprising of all, she even understands that her Fisher Price pull-along phone is in fact meant to be a phone, even though it looks nothing like any working phone she has ever seen; babies are powerful and persuasive evidence for the existence of Platonic ideals.

Back to the phone conversation. After talking to my mother (“mamie”, as opposed to maman‘s mother, who is “grand’maman” – if you’re English and confused, be glad you’re not my daughter) I ask if she would like to speak to Piaf. I may as well ask George Best if he fancies a pint. I make sure I have said all I need to say, and pass the phone to my child.

“Piaf? C’est mamie à l’appareil. Tu veux lui parler?”

She says neither yes nor no but simply takes the handset from me in what will turn out to be a grip of iron and with unerring instinct sets about trying to connect to the internet. She puts it to her ear, ascertains someone is there, listens attentively for a few moments, and then cunningly alters the arrangement of icons in the main menu. When it is quite certain that my mother has given up and hung up (or been cut off – it is never entirely clear) she looks at the screen, ventures her trademark “‘allo?” and hands it back to me. 

Oh well. At least we tried.

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