It wasn’t that long ago that “The Waltons” TV show depicted a life where the family sat on the front porch to stay connected with each other to pass on heritage or legacies. Grandma could sit in her rocker, shelling black-eyed peas and talk about the old days to whoever had gathered around on the wooden stoop.
Now, poor old Granny buys black-eyed peas in a can, but no one wants to eat them, anyway. They are nasty unless you put enough ketchup in them to drown out the taste. Grandma’s porch has turned from a wooden oasis to a virtual Facebook landing.
The sounds of chairs creaking on the slates of wood are replaced by a lonely silence in the living room. Crickets that could be heard as dusk approached in the sky have changed to a single mouse-clicking to forward to the next picture of a relative on the page.
Grandchildren taught Granny to take selfies with Instagram and how to add funny ears or a nose to her pictures to make laughter a part of the interactions. Tweeting this or that in short bursts keeps the whole family together and in constant contact.
The technology is terrific to be able to see pictures of the family at a dance, or out to eat. No one has to miss out on a celebration due to the distance. Video can be shared, so it feels like you are there sharing in the frivolity all without leaving the living room.
These apps notify you of birthdays now, so it is not essential to remember them anymore. As quickly as the pop-up says it is Johnny’s birthday, a person can click to create an e-card to send for the birthday boy’s enjoyment. There is no need to sign it because no one cares anymore about the DNA that an actual pencil carried.
With all the instant communication, you would think we should know more about each other instead of less. We can store more e-cards and notes in a file on the computer instead of cluttering up a shoe box at home.
But how often do you open that file on your computer to look at stored pictures or e-cards? (If you even save them.) I know I still clean out closets and pull out my old shoe boxes to look through once in a while because I am a printer and a saver. I love feeling those old letters, cards and pictures.
They have a smell that ensures me that I belong to this family. I rub my fingers on them and can find comfort in the faces that look back at me. The handwriting on cards familiarizes me with my roots.
We used to take the shoe boxes out onto the front porch to hear parents or grandparents discuss pictures, news clippings or cards that had been saved. Before my grandmother died, I made sure to write on the backs of each one so that the family heritage could be passed down. Otherwise, there would just be pictures with people that nobody knows as future generations come and go.
While at the New York Metropolitan Art Museum, we saw pictures carefully preserved from 1800. It had me wondering, what if my phone breaks? Where are those pictures going to go? If they go on the cloud, who has access to my cloud?
Who gets my cell phone when I die? Will that person ever look at those pictures? I didn’t write on the backs of them, so how are my grandchildren going to know who those people are? How is my heritage going to be passed down? Does anybody really care anymore?
One thing is for sure; I am printing pictures off of my phone and putting them in a shoe box. Then this summer I am going to make all the kids and grand kids sit for five minutes on my small slab of a porch while I shell black-eyed peas and tell them about every darn picture and about the days of old.
Who knows? Maybe they will be so interested that five minutes turns into an hour and we’ll throw some ketchup on the black-eyed peas.