Sunday, January 15, 2012

Spirit 2-2-0

Dominus vobiscum.
Et cum spiritu tuo.

Back in the not quite ancient days of phone systems, before 10-digit dialing and texts, phone numbers came as two letters and five numbers. In kindergarten I learned my phone number as MOntrose 5-0947. My entire village was on the Montrose exchange.

When I was small, my parents had only one car and so once a week, in order to have the car to shop and run errands, my mother would get us up early, dress us and pack however many kids there were at the time into the car and drive my dad to the next stop on his carpool. The process was reversed in the evening. Each trip seemed like an hour long to me (though I just checked Google maps and it looks to be 30 minutes each way!). In those pre-electronic days (no handheld games, no DVD players in the car or iPod or even much choice on the radio) it took ingenuity to keep munchkins from rioting in the back seat. My mother kept us entertained with word games of all sorts.

We memorized the Greek alphabet (in retrospect I wonder if this reflects just how desperate my mother was to keep a half dozen bright children amused, for who teaches pre-schoolers the Greek alphabet? Except for Greek mothers, presumably. Though it's been an amazingly useful bit of knowledge, I will admit.) We also learned our prayers, and the responses for Mass. My age shows, as I can clearly remember my mother intoning "Dominus vobiscum." and the voices from the back responding "Et cum spirit two-two-oh." Or at least that's how I parsed it, just like the phone numbers I'd been learning!

As I work to get the new responses off the page, onto my tongue and into my heart, I miss my mother's gentle drill, and long to hear her voice one more time: Peace be with you. Et cum spiritu tuo, Mom....


  1. Wonderful story! I often think of the old Latin words when dealing with the new translation.

    For a few months, the choirs at my church sang Agnus Dei and it was fun to watch everyone in the congregation who was 60+ singing along. I'm not sure why they stopped; I was planning to look up the words and brush off my Latin.

  2. These are lovely memories.

  3. Beautiful memories - so poignant! Thank you.

    I always thought that et cum spirit tu tuo was a number myself. Who knew? I just loved the way it sounded!

  4. I really enjoyed this post. brings back memories.

  5. My husband once told me that as a child he thought that was God's phone number. I am glad we don't really need a phone, altho today's tech world would totally support that if necessary.

    Being in my early 60's myself, I often long for the sound of Latin and the smell of incense candlewax. Church seemed magic to me as a girl.