One of my favorite cartoons as a child was The Jetsons. The portrayal of the future was colorful and amazing; cars flew around in the air and people chatted to each other on videophones. Contemplating the “picture” phone, I shuddered with dismay. I would NEVER want to talk to anyone on such a device, picturing myself answering with my hair askew, clothes rumpled and dirty dishes in the sink in the background. If and when it was invented I would never use it, thank you anyway. My regular phone would do just fine!
Who could have imagined then that one day we would chat on videophones as a normal part of life. The first time it became significant to me was when my daughter who is deaf went away to school. Using a video monitor, we could chat in American Sign Language, which is SUCH a visual language. Not only are the hand gestures important, but this special language includes facial and body gestures. For instance, she could sign “school okay”, with a facial grimace and thumbs down sign or with a smile that indicated “okay” was synonymous with “good”. Not to mention the fact that ASL is a visual language that cannot be conducted on a regular phone, and regular mom/daughter conversations would have been impossible. With modern technology, she can call anyone anywhere and an interpreter on her screen would interpret her words for the hearing person she called and sign back what the other person said. Several times she has ordered pizza from Dominoes in this way, pleased with herself for her independence. She has had the great fortune of using this method for telephone communication during her lifetime. How much more difficult would it have been had she lived 10, 20 years ago.
The other wonderful advantage of video chatting is being able to be a grandmother to my California son’s 2-year-old daughter. We have been visiting with her by phone since she was about 6 months old. I’d sing nursery rhymes and Papa would pretend to tickle her belly. We were there as she developed, rejoicing in each new little trick she’d learn. When we see them twice a year at Christmas and for her birthday in May, Lailya readily runs into our arms for hugs, sticking her belly out so Papa can tickle it and sitting on my lap so the 3 Little Pigs story can be told in person. After all, she KNEW us because we graced her living room for games and songs every Sunday evening.
With my son being so far away, these visits were also parental support for him. He was very proud to be able to share his daughter with us, beaming with happiness when we told him what a great job he was doing as a dad and what an amazing daughter he has. He would ask our opinion on toilet training and how to get her to eat more vegetables. We were a family and chatting with him made the distance between us immaterial.
Now when I think back to the Jetsons and my aversion to using a video phone because my hair might be messy, I laugh. Yes, this past Sunday, while singing, talking and laughing with Lailya and Francis, my hair WAS a mess. I also had on a bathrobe because it was almost time for bed, (due to the 3-hour time difference between us.) With an ear to ear grin, enjoying our granddaughter’s antics, suddenly what we looked like wasn’t important at all.