Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Why we live in the middle of nowhere
Isla was begging me, as she so often does, more often than I care to admit, to let her "watch something" the other day. Like Pavlov's dog, the minute she steps over the threshold of this house, she begins to feel the pull of the screen, in our case, the computer monitor that connects her to the world of Netflix, or PBS Kids,or Scooby Doo reruns on YouTube.
I watched TV as a child. I have vivid,visceral, memories of staring, thumb in mouth, shoulder's slumped, glass of milk and pile of Oreo cookies by my side, at the TV screen as Bobby Brady attempted to run away but only made it so far as the back yard.
I'm nostalgic for the days of television now, what with the built in governor it had, given the simple fact that TV programming ran on a schedule.
You watched a show. The show was over. You turned it off. The TV stayed in one room. You went to another. Or outside, beyond the reach, and the pull, of the screen.
There is no "over" on the internet. There is no fixed place where we engage with hand-held gadgets. Today our screens follow us wherever we go, if we want them to. Unless, of course, you live in a place that still has no cell-service.
Anyway, even though I dreamed of getting something done, I bravely told Isla "no," when she asked the inevitable question. When the next question came--"then what can I do?" I was prepared.
"Read, draw, climb a tree, look at birds, go outside, watch the ants, ride your bike, go to your room and be bored, be a kid, look around you, life is full of things to do, or not do," I said.
A well- practiced rant.
"Hey, I've got an idea," she said.
"Let's go to Maria's pond and catch some frogs."
"Okay," I said. "Let's go to Maria's pond.
And Isla leaned in. Unafraid of the muck and mire. And the frogs seemed to be waiting, for a fearless little girl, just like her.
And Isla was rewarded for her perseverance.
And she never tired of the sensation of slippery frog in the palm of her hand. The Vermont version of a hand-held gadget.
Over and over again. She let the frog go, she caught the frog. She let it go. She caught it again. I wondered if this frog might possibly be Esther's old friend, Bernadette.
She seemed familiar. And almost as if she was enjoying the game of catch and release.
She'd jump away from the shore, then swim back directly towards Isla. Several times she jumped right out of the water near Isla's feet on the grass.
I had the rare of experience of watching all of this, without once feeling as if I should be somewhere else. Without once saying, "C'mon, Isla. We'd better get back."
I squatted on my haunches, or sat on a rock, at the edge of the pond, and waited.
Until she was done. And we went back home again.
Leaving the frogs, of course, behind. With the unspoken promise that we'd be back.
Oh, we'd be back. You can count on that.