Picture Perfect Moments

The mother trailed behind her two girls down the lighthouse pier to the end where the bay empties into the Atlantic. Along the way, she watched her young daughters snap picture after picture on their smart phones. It didn’t take long for her to catch up. “You don’t have to take a picture of everything,” she declared. “Try and enjoy the moment.”

Mac, who was helping our boys and me collect rocks from the jetty below, heard the parent’s battle cry. He popped up from his hard labor, flashed a knowing grin and cheered, “Yes! Listen to your mother!”

The mom gave a half turn and returned the smirk. I couldn’t tell if she felt validated or violated. But as they moseyed away, I did hear her repeat the words – a little louder the second time.

I told Mac to mind his business, but couldn’t resist a response. “And here I thought I was the only one.”

Put down the phone flashes through my consciousness anytime I see it being used to record our every waking event. I think it to strangers and say it to our children and myself.

The televised parade of athletes during the Olympics’ opening ceremony, a tradition I’ve enjoyed since I was a girl seemed stained this year when several nations, in an effort to memorialize their experience, marched into the stadium accompanied by a blur of glowing screens held as high as the country’s flag.

This summer, family members designated Bubbe, “Spielberg”. He borrowed a defunct phone with a working camera to document a trip he took out west with his grandparents. It was the first time he had his hands on a device dubbed as his own and boy, did he go to town. Although it was great to see my son tap into the creative spirit, the child had a hard time letting go so much so that my in-laws sent me videos of him shooting videos.

I become engrossed with moment capturing too. Smart phones make the process sexy, easy and instant. Thanks to modern technology, I have a bulging photo folder of every cheeky smile, wave jump and sand marble run of our annual beach vacation since Bubbe and Skootch were small.

But there’s something satisfying about taking it all in. When swiping through the most flattering filter becomes a nuisance, I shut down the phone and keep my fingers crossed I’ll be able to recall the drippy ice cream faces, bike rides and hole-in-ones after the boys are grown.

I consider such restraint a generational skill. Unlike my children and the girls on the pier, their mom and I grew up in a low tech world; cameras had film, movie equipment was bulky, quality was a risk and we had to wait weeks to see the results. Even well into adulthood, camera viewfinders were small. We had no choice but to absorb the sights, sounds and smells; breathe, wonder and have the experience. And decades later, it’s those undocumented memories I return to when it’s quiet.

Had I stored those memories on the cloud, would I still consider them cherished moments?

If Mac had his choice, our family would implement a no picture taking policy. I prefer a balanced approach. We’ll continue to ban Bubbe and Skootch from tablets and phones while on vacation. If Spielberg gets inspired, he can borrow my camera. And I’ll still quick draw the iPhone when I get inspired by a pretty setting, Mac’s Dangerfield-esque antics and our growing sons.

At the same time, I’ll encourage the boys to join the parade, follow the drifting clouds as they take shape in the summer’s breeze and teach them that the picture perfect moments are not the ones they swipe click, caption and share; but the ones only they can see.

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On Becoming an iPhone Addict

photo credit: Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun

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Mac and the boys mix a seaweed soup off the distant jetty.  I gaze into a misty horizon, body limp; Yingling nestled in the sand.  The rhythm of the waves at low tide aim to sooth.

Poing.  A hand twitches.

Ding.  Temples throb.

Whoooop.

The allure of mommy solitude is not enough for me to ignore the sound.  I reach for the iPhone.

Whose texting me? 

Who shared my post?

How many friends “liked” my status? 

Did a literary agent send an offer email at long last?

It’s the final evening of our family vacation.  It shouldn’t matter.  And yet my brain sizzles with curiosity.

Outsiders observe.  An intervention ensues.

Crash.  The waves argue their case.

Ring.  The ice cream vendor shakes his bell with disgust.

Whistle.  Even the diving kite overhead has something to say.

Nature’s hum is no match for the cocaine colored Otterbox clutched in my palm as I tap and swipe and stare.

Bubbe is wise to my growing affliction.  “Mom, you’re always on the phone.  Didn’t you say no electronics at the beach?  We are on vacation, you know.”

“You’re right,” I nod, tweet discreetly, and drum up an excuse.  “I only use it to take pictures.”

Skootch is convinced the world’s problems can be solved and the universe’s questions answered with a search engine or app.  “Why did my bucket float away?  Where did the wave take it?  When is it coming back?  Mom?  Mom?  Mom?”  He lifts my chin.  “Type it in.”

Many of my peers seem in control.  A walk on the beach with a childhood friend revealed her reasoning behind a quiet Facebook presence.  Upon stowing her iPhone in my fanny pack she shared, “Years ago, I found myself sifting through a wedding album of a friend of a friend and thought, what am I doing?  It was then that I made a conscious decision to stop.”

Tongue tied and stupefied, I rationalized a half-assed reason why, as a writer building a platform and in search of representation I needed to be savvy with social media.

There was a time when I sneered at the mother who looked at a smartphone in lieu of my face during a conversation at a preschool birthday party and rolled my eyes at the texting parent who barked orders from the playground bench.  Now I am that mommy.

And I know better.  I follow Hands Free Mama’s Facebook page.  I Pinterest technology articles.  I even held onto my Blackberry and a flip phone before that until recently because I prefer not to be plugged in.

I teach my children moderation.  Bubbe survived an electronic free sleep away camp, Deletion Day, and is painfully aware that a phone in his immediate future is unlikely.  Skootch doesn’t ask for technology at restaurants, in the car, or on vacation.  Both follow usage rules at home.

But my do as I say not as I do approach will not last much longer.

The sun is setting.

Skootch giggles up the dune chased by Bubbe who lizards across the sand.  Mac brings up the rear.  I stash the phone in the pocket of the Tommy Bahama lounger, pretend to scribble in my journal, and mindfully confess – I am an iPhone addict.

Quick.

Someone point me in the direction of rehab.