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Saved Voicemails, Some Tweets

The earliest, from my brother (June 2007) was twelve seconds long: “Hi, it’s me—aww, fucking-A!—Hi, it’s me, call later, I guess.”

Then the first day of August 2007, twenty seconds: “Hi Amanda, this is Ollie, I just saw the news a bridge fell down in Minneapolis—I hope you weren’t on it. I guess that’s why I’m calling. I’ll try you later. Okay, love you, bye.” I was working at the café when I missed the call.

July 3, 2008: “Hello, this is your mother calling. I’m calling to remind you that we are going to be in the Minneapolis Airport between 3:14 and 5:20 tomorrow, um, I don’t know if you remember that, we didn’t make the longer stopover because you said you weren’t sure you were interested on the fourth, in, uh, seeing us, but I just wanted to remind you so you don’t say the next day, um, ‘Oh, I could’ve had a V-8.’ So, anyway, uh, we have plenty to do, and we can see you next week when we have a three-hour. So, that’s it. I love you, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow probably. Okay, bye.”

October 2008, B: “Ah, hmmm, dude? I just danced the hora to ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’ so, there you go. Goodbye.”

July 26, 2012: My sister’s son (almost six years old) leaving me a message for the first time, wanting to show me the skate park I gave him. (A cardboard box.) Could I call back later?

New Year’s Eve 2012, a few months after I became a receptionist: my dad calling, with my mother echoing in the background, to wish me a happy New Year with a “few nice turns of events.” It had been a difficult year.

Twenty-eight seconds, Ollie calling on my thirty-first birthday, singing the whole damn song and then saying, with disappointment, “Where are you at this time of morning? This is Ollie, love you, bye.”

November 2013: my sister’s daughter leaving her first voicemail with prompts: “Hi, tried you . . . Hi, tried you, but you’re not there . . . but you’re not there. Try us later . . . try us later! Bye . . . Bye.”

April 18, 2014: “All right, Amanda, this is Ollie, I’m sorry, but the only way I can get through this, is to do it everything exactly the same that I do it every day. I have to get up and take the shower and have my breakfast and go shopping. I have to do everything exactly the same. I don’t know if you can understand that, but that’s the only way that I can do this. In the movie Sleepless in Seattle, they ask the man, ‘How do you get through the day after your wife passed away?’ and he says, ‘I get up, and I get dressed, and I get out and I keep on going,’ and that’s what I have to do. I’m sorry if I was short with you. [Sigh.] Anyway, anyway. I burnt the toast, and I gotta buy some bread now. Okay. All right. I love you, you know that. Okay. Bye-bye.”

My mother calling early in the morning, clearly still in bed with her mouthguard in, May 2014: “Helllllooo? You’re offline, how am I supposed to call you?”

June 1, 2014, my dad calling me “grandma” and “guy,” teasing me for worrying whether they’d made it safely on their cross-country drive.

A confusing message in which my mother miscalculates me as twenty-five to thirty years younger than she is (neither, thirty-five to thirty-six years) and resents the time difference between our states. Late summer 2014.

October 2014: I must have been sad about a romance unraveling. An unobtrusive invitation to call my parents anytime “if you want to talk, we’ll talk, and if not, that’s fine too.”

A week before my thirty-third birthday: “Amanda, this is Ollie, I just want to tell you that I can’t get to the mailbox to get my mail because there’s so much ice out there, so your birthday card is going to be late. I’m sorry. Okay, I’ll wish you a happy birthday, I can use the phone. Bye-bye.”

My mother telling me about her new tornado app, May 2015.

Summer 2015, Ollie intuiting: “It’s me again, I’m sorry, you sounded a little down so that’s why I called you back, is everything okay? Okay. Bye-bye.”

“Oh, Amanda, this is Ollie, I’m sorry I had to hang up so fast. I didn’t go to the party yesterday because I couldn’t wash my hair, and I was in no condition—even though I had a new blouse and everything—so, the woman who ran the party, Carol, stopped by this afternoon and gave me my refund check that I paid and also the refund for the holiday party that I’m not going to because Phyllis isn’t going, none of us are going. Anyway, she gave it to me in an envelope, and in the envelope was a check for somebody else that lives here, so I called and told her about this other check, and she said she’d send her husband over to pick it up, so he came and knocked on the door when I was talking to you, so I had to go and give him the check. And, you know . . . I know him, I’ve known him for a long time, but his hair is snow white! [Laughing.] I couldn’t get over the fact that his hair was so white, I guess everybody’s hair gets white. Anyway, I didn’t hardly recognize him, so I gave him the check, and I asked him if it was wet outside because I gotta put the bags out around four o’clock. Anyway, that’s the story, I’m sorry I had to hang up, had to hang up on you. Okay. I don’t know where you are, well, you’re probably wa—I don’t know where you are now. Okay. Bye-bye.” November 10, 2015.

Ollie calling to say my parents finally gave her my new book, September 2016: “Your words are so beautiful, I don’t know where you get them from, but your words are beautiful, and I found the poem that says ‘Aunt Ollie’ but I really don’t understand the poem, but the words are beautiful. Okay, I just wanted to thank you.”

My father, February 2017: “Did you just call? I was letting mom get the phone and then she couldn’t find it, so nobody answered. Talk to you later!”

Parents in stereo calling to wish me happy birthday, my thirty-fifth, wondering if I was in the shower.

“Hi, what’s your favorite shade of green?” My sister’s daughter, June 2017, her voice sounding like the inside of a bell.

“Hello!? Just wanted to say hello. We finished dinner, but you must be either on the phone or you’re captive by some ghost, so please give me a call. We just got to the room, we had dinner, and we missed you.” My mother, January 2019.

“Hi Amanda, this is Connie, I wrote down we were going to have lunch, but I didn’t write down when, so I don’t know, email me or call me, thank you, lots of love, bye.”

September 2019: “Hi Honey, it’s Dad. I couldn’t respond to either your or Sara’s texts, uh, [redacted] and [redacted] were, uh, talking at the, uh, talking about each other at their, at their party, so I, I just couldn’t respond. Anyway, um, I guess you have the dinner tonight? So, you guys are out? Um, that little black thing that Sara sent is a spider. Termites are white and very small, and you don’t really see them, you see what are long brown tubes on a wall, um, because they don’t like light. So, again, what you showed me is a spider? Just kill it. And the thing upside down is just a bug, don’t worry about it. That happens, don’t worry about it. And, uh, shame about the bird. Um, not sure what you can do with that other than, um, there might be a rake or something like that in the garage that, if you can get a couple of somethings, you can kind of put it there and throw it in the area to the left of the house and something will eat it. So, anyway. I’ll talk to you later? We’re probably going to be driving in another hour. So. Bye-bye.”

My sister’s kid telling me she loves me and can I come over when she’s seven.

November 2019: “Hi Sweetie, I was on the phone with your sister, and when I got off and I came into the family room to tell dad about the phone call, he was watching television, so I started watching with him and . . . I forgot? So sorry. Anyway, we’re home. Bye.” (It’s worth noting that even though you can’t hear my mother’s voice, there is a kind of song in the way she speaks that doesn’t quite translate.)

Stereo call on speaker, my parents in the car, December 2019, could I please call back before they get to the house where they will go to sleep?

March 8, 2020, three seconds, my mother just saying hi.

“Hi, I’m done. I just sat down. I might call Sara cause you’re not answering. Okay. Talk to you soon. Bye.” May 2020.

“Hi Honey, it’s Dad. Just a question on your E-ZPass tag—did you, uh, it registered to your Mazda. Obviously, you don’t have the Mazda anymore. Did you take it to the, uh, to the Honda? Or is it in the Honda now? I think I’m going to cancel that, um, A, number one, it’s not good on the Honda, um, and you’re not particularly going to use it since you’d have to be on the East Coast. So. Give me a call. 6-1- —you know my number, give me a call, and uh, I’d like to get this done today.” July 25, 2020.

Friend in Brooklyn calling to say hi. I’m not sure why I saved it. (On the other hand, one day the people we love will be dead, or they are already.) He leaves good messages in general.

My parents calling from the car, saved because the transcription reads, “I just left in the sea in the car talk to him, yeah, and then I’ll call you later on when you go out to see you . . . ”

My mother on my fortieth birthday: “Hi, I’m still sleeping, but am I first? Okay, bye. Happy birthday.”



I feel seen when the phone autocorrects “today” to “Torah”

Today I have worked very hard and been paid nothing and sometimes that’s what life is like 10/10 would recommend

Just tapped a piece of paper to wake it up

One winter, as a gesture of gratitude, I sent Kenward Elmslie a log I’d been keeping which contained the actions of a squirrel who was living in the walls of my apartment in Mpls

Very meta and even a bit exhilarating for an essay about the usefulness of uncertainty and failure to be rejected over and over again

When the ice cream truck plays silent night is my favorite

For weeks I’ve been thinking toward a gesture that might approximate “doing the best I can,” I hope you are too

The sign said “it’s picnic season,” and I saw “it’s panic season”

Night moves vs. Night swimming

My current productivity tool is playing 15 min songs by John Fahey as a modified pomodoro

Just apologized to my smoothie how is your day going

My preference for no plot has helped in these two years

Had a dream I had inspired someone to read the L.L.Bean catalogue

Denial is a four-letter word

Maybe it’s in the third year that we’ll all become more comfortable navigating uncertainty

Had a dream someone was adamant that 2011 was the worst of the last ten years and I disagreed

Listening to Bruce Springsteen, a poet stops running to ponder whether Billy Joel was talking about a fire that wasn’t started as a response to the fire that couldn’t be started w/o a spark in “Dancing in the Dark”

I still believe in email

As children, when we had hiccups, they gave us spoonfuls of sugar

Through recent experience, the strongest metaphor I know for life right now is trying to go for a walk to get the dog shit off my boots without stepping in new shit

1996: I made you a mixtape
2021: I made you an Ezra Klein playlist of the conversations that might most help you and your team build better trust and understanding

Had a dream I closed all the tabs

I remember driving Harvey Pekar to the airport at 7:00 a.m. in 2005 and how he found Karen Dalton’s voice soothing

This odd summer lurching toward nothing feels like someone (but who?) is saying, “Get in the car we’re going,” and we get in, stupidly, like the driver said they will wait ten minutes for the end of the world to arrive and not a minute longer

Today I made a folder for my favorite voicemails and/or voicemails from my favorite people

You can’t spell “furniture” without “future”

“We decided to open the big bag of Cheetos, I can’t hear you” —my mother

Current loop: optimism that I’m about to invent a new form and then remembering that what I’m imagining is a paragraph

Sobbing watching Defending Your Life w my parents thirty years after we saw it in the theaters

Today I learned my father’s family had a parakeet in Parkchester named after Little Augie the gangster

Whenever I hear “Hungry Eyes” I also hear my mother shouting “you and me!” at the radio

It finally happened / I tried to put food in my mouth with my mask on

I remember hoodsies

Heard a dog bark “Mary Had a Little Lamb”

Sunday evening / my mother singing the Mighty Mouse theme to my father after fifty-two years of marriage

I remember when I saw my therapist across a busy street and hollered hello and then waved my arms and then shouted, “It’s Amanda!”

I remember eleven years ago when I freaked out wondering how many syllables were in the word f-i-r-e

Someone is blowing the shofar

For Halloween I took a bath

Listening to my parents discuss the merits of ice cream from their freezer, then driving home and seeing a sign I imagine John Fahey named a song after is my favorite part of these days

Stop googling Andre the Giant

The sky looks like it is about to be sick

I feel like this is the year someone buys the movie rights to my poetry

Today I gave my mother a haircut and feel like I got to a new world in Super Mario Bros.

These months are an awful collage of remembering to have grace toward the self and grace toward others

Sometimes I buy something because of the potential of its glass container (a yogurt) then / I clean it and consider it for a few days / and then throw it back to the wild (the recycling)

“I don’t want to be a millennial” she said to the dishes she was washing

I remember when I discovered dust motes, age four

Sometimes when I open the fridge it makes a noise like the first few bars of “O Superman”

I remember spilling coffee grounds on the kitchen floor ten years ago

My mother put Diet Coke in Elijah’s cup and then she drank it

Dreamt there was a lot of lettuce in my fridge

I remember the first time I heard Jamiroquai

No one would believe the moon

Amanda Nadelberg is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Songs from a Mountain (Coffee House Press, 2016), and the founder of Culture Forms. She lives in Oakland, CA.