Yesterday, my almost nine-year-old niece’s voice conveyed her excitement: “Aunt Jill,” she yelled into the speaker phone her mother was holding, “you can do it over a video call! We can Facetime!”
She had helped her mother pick out a special Christmas present for me. My sister had already told me that I needed to open it before Christmas, because I probably wouldn’t want to use it afterwards. Based on prior conversations, I had some idea what this gift might be, so this seemed like a practical idea.
“We want to see you open it up!” my niece continued. “It will be fun! And it’s so easy!” I agreed with her that it was a good idea.
As I was watering the Christmas tree this morning–pushing their presents aside so that I could get to the stand, I remembered my promise. I called first to see if they were ready.
(I hate to admit it: I can no longer remember where she goes on which school day. Their school district has now gone completely remote again. But they are still running daycare/school programs, so that parents can still work. Plus, there are days when my sister is working in person at her job, and other days when she is working from home. I believe there is still one day a week when the program does not run, too. It’s all rather confusing—and it’s a situation repeated millions of times by parents everywhere.)
As luck would have it, they were both at home, still getting ready for the day. My niece happily offered to dial me back on Facetime. She is ever-so-proud of her cell phone. It does not matter to her that it is an older phone that won’t hold a charge, that it can only call specific people, and that there is no service if she doesn’t have Wifi available. It’s a PHONE!
I show her my office tree with its cow ornaments (plus a few sheep and goats). I walk her through some other holiday decorations since she won’t be coming up this year to see them in person. We admire the tree together for a moment, and she helps me identify which present I should open.
“Do you like it, Aunt Jill? It’s fun, isn’t it?” With complete honesty, I assure her it is a great choice: it’s a holiday t-shirt featuring an old-fashioned truck piled high with Christmas presents. My sister kindly completed the outfit with a bright blue vest that matches nicely.
Facetime is not new, and people have been using it for several years now. But until 2020, this was not a way that I communicated with my niece. I don’t even know why we didn’t utilize the technology, because of course, it could have been fun to do this at any time. Today, spending ten minutes talking with her turns out to be a lovely silver lining… one of those little changes forced upon me because of a pandemic.