Do you remember the “old days” of video chat? I used to use MSN Messenger to talk to my toddler nieces and nephew and that was back before the advent of in-screen cameras and relatively bug-free apps like Skype and FaceTime. In fact, apps weren’t even a thing yet.
I remember having two copies of ‘Go, Dog. Go!’ and reading over video chat with my nephew while my sister got her laundry folded and dinner started.
It was a much more personal way for me to keep in touch with my off-island family than letters, email, and even the daily phone calls.
But it was not without its faults.
We spent hours connecting, reconnecting, saying things like: “You’re frozen, are you there? Can you hear me? What did you say? I’ll call you back. OK. You try calling me.”
Does anybody else remember those days? The headaches were worth it because I could keep up with the kids as they grew and it made me not only a better aunt, it also kept the close connection with the rest of my family intact despite being four hours and a ferry ride away.
Getting an iPod one Christmas and having FaceTime changed everything. All of a sudden it wasn’t a burden to sit in front of the computer and re-adjust the USB camera perched atop the screen every time my cat walked by on the desk and knocked it askew with his tail. There was no more rebooting and best of all, you weren’t stuck to a chair at a desk.
The kids could (and did) take me on adventures all over their house, their rooms, the playroom, and in some cases, outdoors. They’d prop me up at the kitchen table for dinner and I’d eat my own dinner in my own house and chat like we were in the same room. There were far less “You’re frozen! Call me back!” type of issues.
Other issues soon arose.
My nephew quite often set me up behind this hockey goal and I had to watch him play mini-sticks through the netting and repeat over and over “Wow, great shot, what a goal! Top shelf! Yes, I totally saw that go in.”
He’d call my husband and I long after he was supposed to be in bed to talk about the NHL and he’d mispronounce all the foreign players names, but we liked that because it meant he was reading their names in his hockey magazine, not watching the highlights on TV. His mom knew full well what he was up to, but he thought he was being so clever.
Other times, my nieces would beg him to let them have “Auntie in the Box” and then they’d chat with me a while before ditching me in the middle of the living room to look at their ceiling while they took off to play elsewhere. For some reason I didn’t always just hang up. It was fun to have the noises of a house full of kids in my own, even if they weren’t technically there.
I won’t talk about the times they thought putting me on the counter when they went to the bathroom was a good idea. While they knew enough to point the camera away, they didn’t know what a mute button was back then.
Nowadays the kids are older… but it doesn’t matter. The iPad and our iPhones still keep us in touch. They keep my own kids tied to their cousins and grandparents despite the time and space. And while yeah, it’s not the same as being there, it sure does make it seem like it sometimes. And I’m not going to lie, sometimes the best part is being able to just hang up.
Like George Burns once said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”