Saturday, October 30, 2010

I'm Channeling Louis Armstrong

Back when I was in grade school, my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Francis, told us that some day we would be able to talk with people halfway around the world, and that we would SEE THEM AT THE SAME TIME.

I didn't believe her.

At the time my family lived on a party line, which for all you young'uns out there, meant we shared a phone line with six other families who also lived along our creek. If the phone rang a long and two shorts, someone was calling  us and we could answer it. If any other combination of rings sounded, the call wasn't for us and good manners dictated that we pretend we didn't hear anything. If we picked up the phone, we could eavesdrop on other people's conversations, but in our house that was Not Done.  Not all of our neighbors followed this party line etiquette (I'm looking at you, Bertha Gates) and we learned to be discreet in our phone dealings.

Last night I bought a $32 gizmo to attach to my old laptop. I plugged it into the port on the side of the computer, and a few minutes later, I was face-to-face with the girl whose room I had shared when I lived in Costa Rica. Rosa-Emilia and I have communicated on Facebook, and I've seen pictures of her and her family, but we haven't actually talked for at least a decade.

Quite honestly, I had been nervous when Rosa-Emilia suggested we set up a Skype conversation. In my mind she was still 22, a gorgeous wisp of a girl with blue-black hair. Intellectually I knew she had two grown children, and that everyone gets older. She probably still had a mental picture of me as a blonde, tanned, 24-year-old Peace Corps volunteer--would I disappoint her?

But then the computer chime sounded, and I clicked the button to answer the call. There was Rosita, gorgeous as ever. She was older and no longer a wisp, but the real Rosa-Emilia hadn't changed. She still punctuates her conversation with extravagant hand gestures, and her beautiful eyes are just as kind. 

I realized then how much I had missed this kind of face-to-face interaction. The slow-ish computer connection and my rusty Spanish didn't slow down a conversation that caught us up on family gossip and reminded me again how much her giggle made me laugh.

After half an hour my mind was tired, jammed with verb conjugations I haven't used in 30 years. We signed off with promises that we'll talk again, soon, and that the next conversation will include her parents.

Mrs. Francis, you were right. Next, I suppose, will be time travel.

What a wonderful world.

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