grandma out of the box

Tomorrow our granddaughter Mila comes to visit. I can’t help but think about Mila’s response to grandma out of the box. The last time we were in the same room together was last summer, half her lifetime ago. Since then we Skype weekly, so most of her experience with Grandma has been in the box.

I am reminded of a scene “Life imitating Tech” from a few years ago. My colleague Ethan showed me a picture from when his parents had been visiting. His parents and daughter were “fake” Skyping while in the same room. At his daughters’ request, Ethan made a Skype theater out of cardboard; think Puppet Theater.  His parents sat on the back side of the theater while Ethan and his daughter sat in front as they had a conversation. I imagined Skype had been their primary mode of communication and her most common experience with them. It was how she knew her grandparents. These real people were likely ok but different than the context of their regular relationship, so she may have wanted to put them back in the box.

We are dependent on screens. Technology continues to morph society and what it means to keep connected, as new experiences become ritualized.  The current generation (first world) is also being raised with different rules for time and space than I had growing up. I remember as a young adult, the longing I had for my parents after not seeing them for extended periods of time. This longing was met with an unsettling vivid image as I walked off the plane at age 20 after not seeing them for a year. I was crest fallen to see how old and small they had become. They looked fragile for the first time. My familiar parents became only a memory. I now had to create a new relationship with these changed people. The crazy thing is that the journey I had just taken from one coast to the other took only 6 hours, something my parents weren’t able to experience as children. Each recent generation appears to be redefining personal relationships as technology drives change. Maybe redefining isn’t the right word, although we are clearly experiencing each other in many more formats as time goes on.

Back to Mila… she is so freaking cute I can’t wait to squeeze her (lovingly). I ask myself all kinds of questions about our new relationship. Will she want to touch me? Will she prefer to fake Skype?  Will she want to see me in my red robe, my normal Sunday morning Skype attire? What will Mila think when she sees my robe hanging on the hook? Will she recognize it? Will she wonder if my physical head gets really big like it sometimes does on screen? …

Memory is funny; I started writing this post without remembering I had imagined this scenario 12 years ago. Pre grandma, I led a project at Microsoft that had a vignette of future communications with grandma. My work usually centered on personal experiences, so I would draw from my own imagined future experiences. I would also drag my kids into it. The video below stars my youngest daughter Ruby at age 6 (next month she’ll be 18). Unfortunately this video is very small. At the time disk space was at a premium and we were working with a 640 x 480 resolution …

Now here I am on the other side of the future, and it is to some degree how we imagined it, only way more personal.  I am so looking forward to staying connected with Mila as she grows up and the new ways of connecting that her generation will bring.


grandma out of the box