christmas thoughts about online technology 2009

The late Marjorie Holmes had this to say about families during the Christmas holidays:

“There must be some deep psychological reason why we turn so instinctively toward home at this special time . . . a place where every day will be Christmas, with everybody there together. At home.

But we know that millions of people don’t get to go home at Christmas. Eventually, when we’re in the winter years of our lives, we no longer have family to go home to, or we’re waiting for our offspring and families to come home to us. Families now live scattered all over the world. I usually resist new technology initially; we’re usually the last to update anything, but I want to tell you about Skype. I should mention first that Wintersong is not a commercial blog and I don’t get a cent for singing its praises. It’s so useful that I want to spread the word about how useful it is.

Hubby opened an account a few weeks ago so that it allows us to place video calls to our daughter in New York as well as the one living with her family just down the street from us. In fact, we can call anyone in the world who also has a Skype account through Yahoo, and it doesn’t cost us or them a cent at our current level of membership. Here’s why I like it.

On Christmas eve our daughter was alone in NYC. She had planned on being home for the holidays at the same time SUL Ben visited his family in Houston, but due to unforeseen and serious health complications of a beloved pet who has been her constant companion for the last nearly 14 years, she postponed her visit until later this month. We knew we would miss her, but being animal lovers ourselves, we understood perfectly and supported her decision to postpone travel.

With Skype, however, we were still able to spend several quality hours with her on both Christmas eve and yesterday. Late on the afternoon of the 24th, Moe and Frank and the two grand kids came to have a pizza and salad supper with us and open Christmas presents we had under our tree for them. That way the presents we gave them would be distinguished from those left under their tree by Santa later that night.

We took Hubby’s  new laptop and went online in the family room so that Vim could connect with us online from NY through Skype. It took only a couple of minutes to navigate and voila! Without this magic of modern technology we would have missed being together on Christmas. This way Vimala could talk to Thomas and her namesake as they opened and showed her their presents.

She was also able to see our Christmas tree. Then Hubby took her outside to see what the weather here was like. It seemed rather weird to watch him seemingly carry his daughter around by her head like a mother cat carrying a kitten in her mouth. Here’s what we were seeing and what she was seeing:

Pretty cool, huh?

Now, fast-forwarding to yesterday–Christmas Day–Hubby and I took the laptop with us down the street to daughter’s house for their traditional Christmas breakfast of smoked salmon and a fruit and cheese platter, and Grandpa came through once again with his special soft scrambled eggs. To help them wait for the big stuff, the kid were allowed to get out the things tucked in their Christmas stockings to help them wait until after breakfast for the big stuff.

Finally, we did what families all over the US probably did–we left the dishes on the table and went straight to the living room and tree and the stack of presents Santa had left for all of us. But not before Grandpa in his robe and pajamas and SIL Frank set up the Skype connection with Auntie Vimala . . .

and for the rest of the morning, there she sat on a footstool by the window where she could see most of the room and watch us open our packages–from her as well as from Santa–and we could see her open her presents from us. We got some good news as well. Friday was feeling better and after she woke up she sat on Vimala’s lap and joined in the commotion for a while.

Some of these pictures came from her end and I downloaded them from her. Some were from our end with our camera. The picture quality is a little different for sure, but it’s still a great deal for the price ($0), and I’m sure it’ll be improving even more as time goes by. Here’s how our morning went.

Thomas was eager to help Mom hand out the presents to the proper recipients. And he was pretty sure the large present with his name on it wasn’t really a broken vase like the grownups kept insisting when he opined that it sounded like Legos. Do you think it was mean-spirited of us to remind him how often those clumsy reindeer dropped packages through the chimney–specifically Dasher because he’s always dashing around without looking where he’s going.

He wasn’t buying that story. Turns out it really was one of the Lego flying ships he wanted so badly after all. He was a good sport though, considering he hadn’t had much sleep the night before from too much excitement.  At seven, he already shows signs of growing up. For instance, this is first year he actually showed a little excitement to get new school clothes in part of Santa’s loot.

Little Vimmie is a veritable clothes horse, however, changing outfits several times during the day. She happily poses for Auntie Vimala in her red velvet Christmas dress and her favorite stuffed giraffe dressed up in a matching version of the same dress. Here she is decidedly more dressed up than the night before when she’d worn the gold lame slacks and black sweater wrap that exposed her belly so no one would miss the (press-on) tattoo over her belly button. Hannah Monatana (that’s what she used to call her) move over! As soon as I can teach her to sew, Daddy’s buying up several bolts of fabrics from JoAnn’s and she’s going to start sewing her own fashions. She’s got lots of design ideas she’s already trying out by draping, tying, and scotch taping.

As for toys, I enjoyed the doll house furniture so much myself–especially this necessary item and you regulars already know how much I like toilets! This tiny little toilet was specially designed for the modular doll house Santa left for dolls with tiny tushes. Auntie Vimala loves photographing interesting new things like this as well. Santa must have picked it up from elves stationed in Denmark.  Perhaps wooden green toilets will be a new decorating trend here this year. Only for the most discriminating of dolls however.

While having our daughter with us virtually was not quite as good as having her here for real, it was certainly better than not being able to spend anytime at all with her. After about three hours the battery ran out of power and we didn’t have the power chord with us, so unfortunately we lost her, but at that point it was time for her to get dressed anyway so as to catch the train to Brooklyn where she was sharing a holiday meal with a couple of other friends who had stayed in the city. Strangely enough we felt such a void after the connection failed, as though she had been there awhile and left.

According to promotion ads, Skype is the software “that enables the world to have conversations with one another.” Not just voice calls, either. Their claim is that millions of individuals and businesses use it to make free video and voice calls. From my end, I declare it a phenomenal success in our family. Buy stock now. Or at least consider whether it would be as useful for you as it’s proved to be for our family over this holiday. As I mentioned before, the account is free to subscribers through Yahoo. Learn more here.

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10 thoughts on “christmas thoughts about online technology 2009

  1. Yeah, I have to say, it was pretty much just like being there, at least for the grown-ups. I’m sure Vimmy and Thomas didn’t really feel my presence that much…but they wouldn’t have even if I were in the room, what with all the toys around!

    For people who have MACs, the iChat is also free, and works as well as Skype.

  2. Alice – you know that Tin is learning who is grandmother is by Skyping with her every day in Croatia. It’s wonderful to see how attentive he is when she comes onto the computer screen. I think it’s great that you got to spend a virtual Christmas with Vim!

  3. Such a modern family!

    My mother and I exchanged numerous emails and digital photographs but a video conference would have been great fun! Maybe next year.

  4. I have used Skype for about three years from computer to computer and also with ‘Skype out’ to landlines in Australia, India and the US. I recently added a web cam and it made video calling a new experience. I also chat and video call through Yahoo messenger MSN and Gmail chat. The world gets smaller every day. The only charges are for ‘Skype out’ to landlines, but they are very cheap and credit is bought in advance.

    I am still playing catch-up as I was away for a few days with an excuse for an internet connection.

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