I just called my girls – one at her first summer internship and one at her first graduation party – and I wonder if I’ve given them enough to survive in this world? That phone is my lifeline to them right now but there is no line, no chord. They’ll never know the challenges of the limited chord length. Many a day I strategized as to how to turn away and talk over my shoulder, speak in a whisper or close the front door on a black curly chord, so that I could have a private conversation with my girlfriends. They need only walk to another room, or even outside, or just text their most stressing drama of the day. Is there strategy and appreciation in that?
When I was their age, I appreciated the Galaxy. I loved looking at the stars and using their light to catch fireflies. If my glass jar was lucky enough to hold a quarter, I’d flip and spend it on a Milky Way. To them a Galaxy is just old droid technology. To me a droid was the two great supporting actors in Star Wars. My young ladies think of a droid as the predecessor to the iPhone.
An iPhone is a personal item in their back pocket. When I was their age, it was a rounded comb in my Levi’s or Bonne Bell lip gloss back there. An iPhone is at their disposal 24-7. For my generation, it took 24 minutes to rotary dial 7 numbers. In fact, when I was in grade school it was still only four numbers. Now the girls need more than four numbers just to have a student ID. When I was in school, a student ID was called my name. We were spoiled like that.
It seems my girls are spoiled in a different way and will not know the value of sharing. My sisters and I had to share that black-escape-to-somewhere-else-phone-on-the-wall with eight people in the family. We had a limit of ten minutes on the phone and my father actually set the buzzer on the stove. Nowadays, we seem to have provided our children with the privilege of each having their own lines. We have a family plan and can call each other for free. The only problem is that we are also the ones they don’t want to call. We are fighting ‘the man’ to limit their calls while all the while they know they have unlimited calling and texting.
Texting to them is a one-finger speed dial. In the seventies word discussion was called dialogue, or if it was long enough, an essay. Which leads me to add that if I made an error on an essay, I had to get another piece of paper and start over from the beginning. In later years, were were advanced enough to have a new invention referred to as white out. My babies have learned neither of these two concepts. Rather they have auto-correct, spell check and a delete button.
Speaking of buttons, that’s all my girls have to do to take a photo too. They pick up their phones, auto focus and push a button. We had to buy a camera, film and flash bulbs. Add to that the fact that once we used the whole roll, it was mailed off to some laboratory in the mid-West – after licking the stamps for postage – , or we got to go to a nearby – and by nearby I mean within a 20-mile radius – Photohut. It was fun to hand our film off to a woman in a colorful dwarfed house and wait up to two weeks for development. Do my girls not know the true definition – the feeling – of anticipation? I don’t think the instantaneous selfie retakes have allowed for that in their life. Will they ever be able to find themselves?
Of course, I’m sure they will. That too is just another button on their phone. It’s a fleeting moment for them to bring up Google, or if that’s too complicated, a GPS that will talk to them. When we were kids, finding your way was called a map. An in-the-glove-compartment, impossible to refold, you need a ruler to measure distance, map. Paper ephemera that allowed you to know East from West and how far away you were from home. I suppose that is one place cell phones can work in a parents favor. If we want to know where our children are, we just have to track their cell phones or sign-on to social media.
There too lies the problem. When we were young and uninhibited, social media was called talking, reading the newspaper, going to the library, listening to the radio and maybe watching family television together. It certainly wasn’t typing into a phone, or sitting solitary on a laptop, or blogging.