My mother is something of a luddite. To put it in perspective, she got her first email address about a year ago. Even when I was a kid, she was the throw-up-your-hands-at-this-machine, can-you-set-the-VCR-timer kind of person. When the technology boom came along, she largely ignored it as it swirled around her, a small Pacific atoll ignoring the rising oceans.
But, of course, the inevitable can’t be brushed off forever. She endured years of ribbing at still carrying around a brick of a flip phone when I (and most of the rest of the industrialized world) moved to a smartphone circa 2007. She resisted Facebook when her faraway siblings and nieces began requesting her as a friend (she is still waging that particular battle). It took a solid four months of coaching to teach her to log on to online banking without getting herself barred for too many wrong password attempts. She is a smart woman who taught herself for the GED while still learning English and took college classes while starting her own business. But her brain does not speak technology.
That’s why it totally surprised me when, around four months ago, she started asking questions about iPhones. As an Apple aficionado, I am always happy to wax rhapsodic about the small device that has made my life complete. But not with my mother. Imagining of enduring the incessant phone calls asking why the images on the screen moved when she touched them tempted me to suggest she stay with a dumb phone. But I could hear in her voice that she wanted to be convinced, wanted to be given permission to give up this particular resistance. “Andreanna could teach you how to use it,” I offered, the closest I would come to enthusiasm. I figured if I made my daughter do it, the extra buffer of a generation might make it easier for all involved. (Except maybe my daughter). My mom ordered her iPhone that same day.
Her first text, on November 23rd, 2013 at 7:22 p.m. (preserved for posterity) said, “Nena” (her nickname for me) “Call me about tomorrow.” I can’t remember what was going on on November 24th, that not-quite-Thanksgiving-ish day, but what was interesting about it wasn’t the content but the tone. My mother, always meek and unassuming, took on a decidedly more in-control air via text.
That’s after she got the hang of it, of course. The text directly following the instruction to call her said simply this:
What was great? That information is lost to the ages, but at least this texting was turning out to be a positive experience for her. She began texting randomly, sometimes calling when she should have texted, sometimes texting when it would have been more expedient to call. At times she sounded like the Magic Eight Ball. In response to “Are you at work today?” she replied, “The answer is no.” She texted random dog pictures with no context and became proficient with the call, text, call combination when ignored.
But perhaps the best part about texting with her was the whole new side of her I got to see. Always humble and deferential in person (a trait that makes it impossible to get her to choose a restaurant for her birthday, for example), via text she was positively in command. Last night, when commenting on some directions I gave her to visit someone in the hospital, she replied, “I’ll be home at 12 if you want to talk. And it’s not Marian, it’s Maple.” When I invited her to watch my daughter play Desdemona in the middle school play, she responded, “At what time and where?” with CEO brevity. I was impressed. When it got down to it, my mom turned out to be a pretty damn good texter.
Now if we can just convince her to get a Facebook account.