“What is it?”
“It’s a truck,” he responds, waving it in front of the web camera.
“Oh, now I can see it!”
He runs off to find more toys, leaving his teenage brother and sister free to chat.
“Hooley Dooley,” I say, “you’ve all grown!”
Up till now, I’ve only spoken with their mum or grandma two or three times a year on their landline phone.
“Good to finally see you online,” I say to my cousin and aunt. “Now we can chat more regularly.”
Online family connections
Last week I “friended” one of my nephews on Facebook and through him tracked down a few more of them.
We normally wouldn’t chat unless I was visiting them in Greece, but as they know me from my previous trips, they’ve responded favourably to my “friend” requests.
At least I’ve now got access to recent photos so I can positively identify them when I’m next over there; fortunately my aunts and uncles are still instantly recognizable, despite being more “advanced” in years.
That’s most of dad’s side of the family now online – well, at least it’s the second and third generations, which allows me to connect with long lost cousins.
The trick is finding the right one who’s connected online to the rest of our extensive family, as many of the younger generation are scattered around the country due to university study or military service.
Mum’s side of the family is generally more elusive, however, as most of them don’t have an online presence.
It appears they haven’t embraced technology as I have on this side of the world.
The first time I used a computer was way back as a cadet journalist on a regional newspaper; it was a square box of a contraption, with a small black screen and flashing green font.
All the journalists buzzed with excitement when we upgraded to the latest version: a smaller square contraption, with a larger black screen and orange font.
We still manually typed formatting commands on the text (a precursor to the current HTML language, perhaps) to produce various column widths and font sizes for the newspaper.
Those were the days when desktop publishing meant drawing newspaper layout on paper using a pencil.
I guess that probably dates me somewhere in the Stone Age, although carbon dating my first typewriter places us it the Jurassic era on the prehistoric timeline.
Dare I admit that I typed all my college assignments on a bulky green typewriter which required the insertion of paper. I recall how we enthusiastically applauded the invention of white out, which allowed us to fix typing errors without ripping out the paper and starting all over again.
A few years later I ditched the chunky heavyweight typewriter for a funky new “portable” version; I was keeping pace with the changing technology.
The Modern Era
I love the fact that I can sit in a wireless café in New Zealand and send emails or chat on Skype with my cousins in Greece.
I love it even more that I can work from home late at night. That’s the timeframe for my Greek nephews to send me a message via Facebook or call me on Skype.
The younger ones haven’t fully grasped the concept of the eight-hour time difference between us, so by the time they come home from school, I’m usually asleep.
I don't want them to think I'm ignoring their messages.
“Great to catch up, but I really need to go to bed,” I tell my relatives on the other side of the globe.
“Why? What time is it over there?”
“One AM! So goodnight. We’ll chat again soon.”
Postscript: I've also been able to keep track of my Sydney-based nephew and nieces through Facebook, as well as my former babysittees. We may not chat much online, but I can still follow their school/work adventures from a distance.