A sultry summer Sunday, seven am, an hour past waking, Prince two-and-a-half, and Princess almost-five have had their first breakfast, and are ready, more than ready, to start the day here in sunny Philadelphia.
“Are they ready yet?” says A. “I will check now.” I say.
I reach out across time and seasons to a nippy, drippy, winter’s nine pm, Sydney, Australia all the way to the apartment where my sister and her husband have made a new life. Their faces appear, somewhat sleepy in the late evening darkness, but suddenly lift, when they see A and E chittering like monkeys in front of them from 9869 miles across the world.
And then the magic really begins.
In Star Trek, this was the future.Video phones connecting across the final frontier. But Gene Roddenberry could only imagine what this was like with an adult’s practical eye. In the hands of two toddlers, the static, piped-in, moving picture of beloved aunt and uncle becomes a kid’s most coveted and elusive wonder: a captive adult audience.
They compare stinky feet, praise pee in the potty, follow my daughter into her bedroom where they take turns making gross faces and throwing up. My sister opens her mouth wide and closes in on the camera, so close I can see the uvula, and my son runs screaming in fear and delight, “Don’t EAT me!! Don’t Eat me!!”
My brother-in-law disappears from the screen and in his place we see a ghostly blanket-covered ghoul attacking my hapless sister. “Help! Spiderman! Help.” The two year old Spider man, naked from the waste down shoots webs from his wrists at the fiend, and the young warrior Princess strings her bow ready with the assist behind.
They both leap up and down in victory, the screen showing bare butts and legs bouncing on the bed.
Across the airwaves the children, my sister, and my brother-in-law play together, no distance between them. The rules of time, space, and sensible- computer-use are nothing but constructs of the adult world, quickly giggled away.
These are the voyages of starship toddler, to boldly go where no one over 20 has gone before…