Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Skyping With a Four Year Old, or How the Ceiling Looks in a Disney World Resort

I know 'm a fairly technology savvy person for my age. Part of it was working in journalism where computers were the thing. Part of it is that I'm generally not afraid to try new things, well, unless they involve tight spaces, or perhaps flying, which I've still not had the opportunity to do.

So the fact that although I carry a smart phone, Facebook like a mad person, do half my shopping on Ebay or Amazon, play video games that you have to buy (not Facebook freebies) and up until this week had never used Skype may seem a bit strange.

It's simple. I'm lucky in that the people I care most about are all generally close by. No immediate family flung to the far ends of the nation or serving with the military abroad. Even the family I don't see as much as I should doesn't need a visual to satisfy.

But this week the babies are in a Disneyworld resort and I haven't had hugs and kisses or the pleasure of squeezing little warm bodies since last week. Monday night it was raining in Florida and after days of running wide open they were taking shelter in the room. During that time we'd only had one brief telephone conversation because E1 wanted to call me and tell me "We're on vacation. We'll be back in a few days." So my daughter sent me a message that we could Skype when I got home.

I had other things I needed to do when I got home about 8:30 p.m., like eat dinner, but Skype moved to the top of my list. My previously unactivated account and unused laptop camera were put through their paces. I messaged my daughter. "I'm online."

She sent me her user name and told me to call. "How?"

She asked for my name.

By that time I'd figured it out and suddenly a Picasso-like view of my daughter in the dimly lit room several states away appeared on my screen.

I heard E1 shout "Ma!" and the tablet they were using to contact me changed hands. It went to E1 and our conversation was punctuated by extended looks at the ceiling and head swirling views of the walls, furnishings and other occupants of the room as she took me on a tour wildly swinging the camera angle. I saw everyone except E2 at least briefly. She'd already given up for the day and was asleep.

Most of my actual visit with E1 was only from her eyes up as she had the tablet oriented for what she wanted to see of me and didn't give a thought as to what I was seeing of her. She had enjoyed that day's visit to the Wild Kingdom and her session the night before being made up as a princess. Getting all the princesses to sign autograph books had been well document on FB videos so we could talk like I'd actually been there. When it came to the 4-year-old, however, we had a better conversation on the phone.

The high point of our "visit" was probably E3 who went into a gummy smile, lost her pacifier and did her happy belly flop upon hearing my voice. Ahh, those sweet chipmunk cheeks that are normally such a routine part of my day. Mom said she's cut two more teeth and has four uppers looming, so the gummy grin will quickly be a thing of the past. By the time she's here again she may have four times as many teeth as when she left.

After only 16 minutes we signed off as it was time to move the older one to bed as well. I also had other things pressing and they would be back soon.

While it was wonderful to see them moving and talking again, Skype was a poor substitute for the real thing and I realized all over again how wonderfully blessed I am.

So many families are scattered across the world by college romances that lead to weddings, careers that move families as they advance, the urge of our offspring to live in a different world. There are many families who don't have the simple luxuries of celebrating every birthday and holiday together, of reaching out to help one another when an extra hand is needed, of being close enough to feed each other's cats.

So Skype works when you don't have an alternative. But for me, I'll be glad to give up my week of solitude for high pitched voices, temper tantrums, a crying baby, bottles, diapers, meal time drama and the wide open pace of childhood, and more importantly touching soft curly hair and warm chubby limbs, hugs, kisses, and random "I love you's."

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