Nov. 1, 2009

The Season of Nostalgia is on its way. Family
squabbles now turn into gift-guessing games. Strangers greet us as we
shop, and retail clerks compliment our selections. Over meals, we toast
one another, happily clinking glasses. By candles' soft glow, we say
grace over tables laden with favored old family recipes and discourse on
who best made them. Newly marrieds fuss over blending each family's
traditions. Children practice carols for seasonal performances, while
mommies hum as they brush ponytails and tie sashes. And seniors quietly
reminisce with one another. Seniors like me. But I am thinking of the

The late American comedian George Burns once said, “I
look to the future because that is where I am going to spend the rest of my
life.” I look to the future because it is scary — a place where one more
electronic gadget will boggle my mind, or an online group give me
social-networking nightmares. After four years of using (the same) cell
phone, I have not yet programmed in a single number and have no idea how to
put someone on hold if I ever get a second call. My first invitation
to join an online professional group came from a long-ago workplace
colleague with a history of a less-than-inviting attitude. If she did not
speak to me then, why does she want to “link” with me now?

I am horrified that cheeky “Twitterature” might actually
catch on, reducing all my favorite works of literature to a mere 140
characters each. And why are there 1,000 channels on FiOS or the Dish
Network, yet the 2005 “Dateline” episodes are replayed round the clock?
Tired of being lost in that maze of entertainment talking heads, I curl up
with a spy novel and wonder, how I could possibly cuddle a Kindle? How does
one fall asleep with a Kindle on her chest without getting injured?

When I read that Google and Facebook translate text into
130 languages, I wondered how it is I have gotten by without incident since
my fluent Spanish lapsed some 30 years ago. A neighbor's college-age kid
asked me to proofread his essay; the required 500 words were set forth in
text-message jargon on five or six lines. Sadly, text jargon is now
documented in the AP Stylebook and Merriam-Webster's Dictionary,
I sent back my opinion: “UG2BK.”**

I can hardly keep up with disposing of junk mail, so I
cannot grasp the concept of why one person needs 85,000 applications for an
iPhone — who has time for even one? The only app I need is the one called
“nap app.” Why does just owning a “gadget” make me feel as if I am obliged
to be “on call” to anyone, anywhere, anytime? I am supposed to be available, you say? Availability is the
essential part of “social networking”?

Make no mistake, I do not oppose social networking (I
actually visit with my neighbors whose names I really do know) or using
newfangled gizmos. I was the first on my block to own two rubber
jar openers (one for kitchen, one for purse).

The onslaught of online “friends” and gimmicky
“stuff” has begun to affect my existing relationships. Time with my
family and friends is precious and sustaining. When, however, my niece
last spent a week with me — eyes affixed to her BlackBerry, fingers busy
texting messages to whomever — she eventually asked why I had stopped
talking. “UG2BK,” I answered.

I intend to spend the coming season cherishing a
telephone call from a loved one or a seasonal card from a faraway friend
… welcoming neighborhood guests for holiday dessert … conjuring up a
holiday gift that would truly surprise my 11-year-old nephew … or,
best yet, opening the front door to find the USPS delivering an
unexpected gift!

Yes, it is the season to spend time with friends and
family — as well as to share generosity of heart, the true measure of
our connectedness to others.

[email protected]

* Happy Holidays to You and Yours

** You got to be kidding.             

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