Our wake-up call came around 6:30 last Thursday morning as Vivienne Lavo, 6 — our middle grandchild here in Tucson, Ariz. — was waking up from her first sleepover with us.
Karen and I were in the kitchen getting breakfast ready before taking Viv to kindergarten. We could hear her in the bedroom, talking on my iPhone. It was her mom calling from work at the hospital where she’s a nurse, just making sure we were up and in gear. A little while later we overheard Viv still on the phone, asking to talk to her big sister, Lilie, 9.
When she came out of the bedroom and brought me the phone,Viv said that besides talking to Mama, she had also spoken to some “old lady.”
“She was nice,” Viv added.
Since we hadn’t heard the phone ring, we felt sorry for the wrong-number victim at the other end of the line. The matter was quickly forgotten until later that morning when I got a call from my friend Nancy Meola on Maui. Nancy told me that her daughter, rising musical star Lily Meola, had gotten a call from my cellphone earlier. Lily was worried that my phone had been stolen and she was being pranked. Especially since the little voice at the other end kept asking to speak to Lilie.
Lily had been asleep when the phone rang, which might explain what sounded to little ears like an “old-lady” voice. Mercifully, she was in L.A., in the same time zone. When she groggily asked who was calling, the little voice answered, “Vivienne.”
I texted Lily to apologize and we both got plenty of OMG, LOL moments out of all the confusion, especially after Lily mentioned that she has a good friend named Vivian.
Later I showed Viv some photos of Lily Meola online, including one with her deer, Doe-nut. Now you’re friends with a celebrity, we tell her. “Wilwie Meowa” is beautiful, Viv and her little brother, Niko, agree. Connecting the dots is tricky enough when we tell friends the story — we can only imagine what the kids make of it.
Maybe Viv found Lily’s name in my contact list. Maybe her reading skills are improving. An accidental keystroke is probably closer to the truth.
I usually try to keep my family out of the column, having learned long ago that no one else finds cute stories about your grandkids as entertaining as you do. But tossing the story of Viv, Lily and Lilie into my metaphor pool keeps generating lots of ripples. There was the first time I heard Lily Meola sing, at the Haleakala Waldorf School Holiday Faire, when she was barely older than my granddaughters are now.
More than that, the wake-up call adds to our never-ending efforts to sort out the love-hate relationship many folks my age have with modern technology. It’s one of those things that fall under the heading, can’t live with it . . . but good luck trying not to.
Wrong numbers used to just happen in your hometown. Now they cross oceans and time zones in the blink of an eye. Smart phones are textbook illustrations of the term “bright shiny object.” Nine-year-old Lilie happens to be an excellent reader, but her younger siblings are a lot happier with screens in their hands. Today’s schoolteachers don’t just have to teach kids how to read — they’ve got to teach them why to read. Screens awash with color and movement are so much more fun . . . at least until the first signs of addiction become obvious.
My last text to my neighbor John Van Scoy saying, “Qwertyuiopasdfghjklqwpoiuytrewqtryuiopxzcb- nmnbvxzsdffhjkqwtyuiopppppppp” must have been accidentally composed by the seat of my pants . . . or else by Vivienne, the previous time she got her hands on my phone.
And yes, I do keep the phone locked, and mostly out of reach of little fingers. But today’s kids are ingenious that way. Don’t we all know a 4-year-old who can do things we never dreamed of with our phones?
The iPhone was unveiled in June 2007. It’s been observed that anyone born after that date is a native in the realm. The rest of us are immigrants, many struggling to learn the foreign language.
Technology turns the concept of older-but-wiser upside down. But then again, with Apple unveiling its new credit card that will make banks obsolete, and Facebook putting American democracy in the crosshairs of Russian bots, and Twitter being all a man with big hair needs to rule the world, it’s hard to know what’s more dangerous:
Leaving control of our screens and minds to them . . . or putting it in the hands of babes?
* Rick Chatenever, award-winning columnist and former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.