Friday, September 7, 2012


The other evening Rozzie phoned our landline.  She and her boyfriend Atli are visiting from the UK, and had just flown out to San Francisco. They were about to have dinner with my sister Steph and her husband Dylan, their boys Oliver and Emmett, and my mother Judy. 

"What are you doing, Mum?"  Rozzie asked.

 "Watching a movie called The Fairy."

"And Daddy?"

"He's asleep."


"Here, it's almost 11:00," I said.

 "Oh. Well, can't you get on Skype?" she asked.  "We were trying to call your cell phone but you wouldn't pick up."

"Because I was watching a movie."

"Get on Skype," she told me. And so, instead of winding down, I paused the movie, and booted up. I dug out my iphone and logged onto Skype and watched the little blinking line connect to a blue and white head and shoulder/space saver. 

I do like Skype. Alex skypes from Sydney Australia, fourteen hours ahead.  Sometimes he's starting Monday morning while our side of the globe is on Sunday afternoon. He skypes from his iphone, so Ben and I are virtually 'carried' by Alex down his street, in front of the beach. We look up at his face, like little Roo in Kanga's pouch, as he sits on the bus.  He holds his phone to the window, so that we can enjoy the waterfront view whizzing past. Other times, he skypes on the way back from a party, or on his way to grab a Banh Mi sandwich for lunch.  These casual interactions do away with distance. It ceases to exist.

That's why, instead of watching a movie in Falls Church Virginia, I was now going to my sister's living room in San Francisco.  "HELLO~!!!" came a chorus of family voices.

"Hi!" I said. "Can you guys see me..."

"We can see you," said Stephanie's voice.

"...because I can't see you."

"Oh no," said Steph. "And now, we can't see you."

"You're frozen," said Rozzie.  Everyone in San Francisco seemed to be talking at once. "Why is it pixilating?....Oh, well wait a bit...There she is...or was..."

"Where's she gone..." asked my mother's voice.

"I'm still here," I replied a little testily. 

There was a loud guffaw.  The entire family was suddenly helpless with laughter.

"What's going on?"  But the laughter continued and died down slightly before gathering new strength.

 "I still can't see you," I told them.

Which only caused more hilarity. I heard my mother's rich cackle. Oliver was laughing so was Dylan, and Atli...

"It keeps freezing!" Rozzie's laughter was long and sonorous, leaping up in trills of joy as other voices joined her.

On my phone I could see myself.  My image connected to the little white head and shoulder space saver.   I was feeling rather annoyed.

"Try this window..." Stephanie's voice instructed.   "Now click on that...."

I should get back to my movie, I thought to myself.  There was another chorus of laughter.  "Are you still there, Mand?"

"Yes," I said boredly.  "I'm still here."

 "Oh dear!" My mother was almost weeping with mirth.

"What is going on?" I cried.

"That is SO funny!" Steph managed, as she and Rozzie went off into fresh gales. Atli was laughing too, and so were my nephews...

"Oh dear! We keep trying to shut down different windows, and in every window there's another frozen image of you.... of your face looking more and more annoyed," said Rozzie.  She broke off. "Oh look, there she is again!"

 They were absolutely creasing themselves.

"Well, from my perspective, I was watching a movie," I put in.  "Then you telephoned, and now the whole family is laughing at me."

They laughed again.  They couldn't help it. "Sorry," they said. "But your face was so funny."

"You kept freezing with a fresh expression of exasperation."

"And the pictures were so tiny!"

"Well, I'm glad you're amused," I said.

 In the end we decided I should go upstairs and log onto the desktop,  where they came in loud and clear. So loud in fact, that Ben got out of bed, put on his robe and sat on the settee joining the fun.  We could see them all together in the yellow living room, the fire going in the background, my nephews dancing in and out of view, different family faces coming in close and retreating into the background.  Sometimes they talked to us, and then they seemed to forget we were there, and turned to talk to each other.  It was just like being in the room.

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