Wednesday I had lunch with the high school gang at Marie’s house and celebrated the three March birthdays with cake and presents and laughter.  One of us has gone off to Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee in Israel for a couple of years and so we did the contemporary thing and skyped her.  The seven of us stood uncomfortably around the computer in Marie’s study, asking questions and watching our friend’s face digitally freeze up every few minutes.

In our own family, we have i-chatted with distant family members a couple of times, and I have to say that I find this form of communication awkward, and yea, verily, downright boring.  It feels contrived to be staring at each other on a computer screen.

We don’t even look at each other in real life. In real life, we sit in a large room and text each other.

I-chat feels a little like an-in-your-face pop-quiz, but not only do you have to answer inane questions, but you feel responsible to ask inane questions as well.  How are ya?  Whatcha doing?  Your hair looks nice.  Mom, you’re supposed to look at the camera.

All of this with a pleasant look on your face.

What’s more is that televised visits are impossible to end.  It feels rude to break away from a human face even when there’s absolutely nothing left to say.  Have you ever skyped anyone where it took less than forty minutes?

It’s worse than driving with all your loved ones in a station wagon to Yellow Knife.  (Maybe that’s where the Smylies will end up).

Okay, here’s the real deal:  I’m missing letter-writing.  I’ve been going through old letters, carefully written, with drawings in the margins or pressed flowers folded between the pages, letters with cartoons attached or scripture references.  Letters.  You could carry them around with you and read them again.  You could leave the imprint of your lips on the seal.  You could save the stamps from exotic locations.  You could read them aloud to friends, or not. Tactile, scented, papery letters.

I grow old.  I grow old.  I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.