Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Now on home video

In 1989, a little-known indie film named "Back to the Future, Part II" hit movie screens. This timeless, and prophetic, classic followed the adventures of a young man and his scientist friend as they traveled to the far-flung future: the year 2015. They discover that the people of 2015 will drive flying cars, zip around on hoverboards, and wear self-drying jackets. I think some of the movie's predictions were a little far-fetched (the Cubs winning the World Series comes to mind), while other parts missed the mark completely (does anyone really think newspapers, like the "USA Today" Marty reads, will still be around by then?).

Yet one part was spot-on: the main characters of the future talk to each other using video. Back when the movie came out, the only way to communicate by video was to record yourself on a VHS tape (using a heavy camera that rested on your shoulder), send it in the mail, and wait for your friend to send a tape back. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait until 2015 for all that to change. My friends, the future is already here... and for Kyle, it's just part of the routine.

Once every couple of weeks, Kyle finds himself in the same room with my parents, even though they're in Massachusetts and he's in New York. It's all thanks to the magic of the internet. My parents bought a camera for their computer just for this purpose; they did not want to go too long without seeing Kyle, and they did not want him to forget about them, as if he would suddenly not recognize them and reject all the attention and toys they bring each time they visit. This video conferencing gives my parents an opportunity to also see the son they raised and set free into the world, but so far taking advantage of that does not seem to be a priority.

Kyle loves these moments just as much as my parents do. He always seems surprised to suddenly have them in my office, inside "the box." As my parents say "hello" to him, he wiggles around with excitement as he sits on my lap. He kicks my leg with excitement and then, WHACK!, bops me in the face with the back of his head as he lets off a laugh. He and my mom exchange kisses and play hide-and-seek, while my dad waved his hand at him and gets him to mimic the sounds of barnyard animals. It's a beautiful use of modern technology. One thing Kyle especially loves is something my mom came up with: she rocks back and forth from the camera, saying "Wooooaaaaahhhhh." Both of my parents do this exercise for a big part of the conversation, as Kyle cracks up and I watch in bewilderment over what has become of my family.

Often Kyle jumps off my lap and into our bedroom, as I then become "the camera man," following him as best as I can (for those of you who don't know, my office doubles as our bedroom's closet - or the other way around). Usually Kyle runs out of range, starting a new game in which my mom shouts "Where's Kyle?," prompting him to run back in view to a round of applause. He then runs off again. This also goes on for a good chunk of time.

My dad might then say, "Dave, how are you?," but before I could answer Kyle comes running back, motioning that he wants to sit back on the seat. I put the little guy back on my lap and those in Massachusetts laugh and make more funny faces. I try to say something but am suddenly speechless as my son steps on my groin and flings his head up over my shoulder and stares at the ceiling. "Is that your BELLY?" asks my mom in a playful tone as Kyle's belly button is splashed on their computer monitor. Kyle looks back down at her, smiling and pointing to his belly button as he gives me a black eye with his cheekbone.

It's usually at this time I realize that my parents are very fortunate that smell-o-vision has yet to be invented. I tell them Kyle needs a change and it's time to go, and they all exchange good-byes, mixed in with a few more "Wooooahhhh's" and "Where's Kyle?," as the little guy responds with yelps, smiles, and some forceful head-butts. Everybody laughs, says good-bye again, and after a brief pause one of my parents says, "Oh, yeah... it was nice to see you, too, Dave."

At that point, the future comes to an end, as I close the program and bring Kyle back to his room. Kyle will see his grandparents again sometime soon, once my wounds heal.

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