There are some funky binoculars attached to the climbing structure at our playground:
I love binoculars. (As I say, I’m outdoorsy, not that you’d know it from the hours I spend on the Google-box).
For my daughter’s sake, then, a couple of weeks ago I dutifully acted the part of the reclusive Blue-Hatted Booby (I said booby!) for her to locate and identify. For a full minute I danced and flapped my wings as Boo examined me through the faux lenses, making minute adjustments and pressing imaginary buttons.
Finally satisfied, she turned the binoculars around, flipped another could-be switch, and said, “Look on the back, daddy! I took your picture!”
Right. Not binoculars, but digital camera.
That night, as I was showing Boobaby which buttons to press on mommy’s iPhone to watch the Wiggles singing “Big Red Car” it struck me that, technologically speaking, this little girl will have a far different childhood than I did. Mostly the changes are just window dressing: she’ll have even more crap on even more television stations to rot her mind as a teenager. As I would have said in my youth: “No big diff.” (And “Grody.” And “Bitchin’.”)
At least one technology is going to fundamentally change her existence, however: video chat on the computer. I knew my living grandparents reasonably well, but at most we saw them once a month, and usually less. Boobaby, on the other hand, has full-video conversations with her seven grandparents and other assorted relations at least a few times a week.
Cell phones were among her first toys. She plays dolls, but she also plays “e-mail.” We make art to send to her relatives, but even more often, Boo wants to Skype them. To me, this is huge: it means that although we’re way out here in San Francisco, my daughter is getting a genuine sense of her family, some hundreds and some thousands of miles away.
So the last time we went to the playground and Boobaby again took to the maybe-camera, maybe-binoculars, instead of acting daft, I simply asked her: “Who are you looking at?”
“I see Joey, and Papa!” she responded, by which she meant her imaginary friend (but that’s another story) and the grandfather from the Midwest. To underline what she meant, she leaned back from whatever optical device the toy was standing in for. Then she held her finger on her lip to indicate mustache and pulled back her hair with the other hand in a fair imitation of Papa’s bravely receding hairline.
Satisfied that I understood whom she was talking about, she returned to the eyepieces and waved madly with one hand. “Hi, papa!” she shouted.
Even 1,500 miles away, I suspect she absolutely saw him.