I was watching a group of teenagers and preteens in a restaurant the other day. Each one held a gadget; one had the volume turned up to the max. I observed how “with the beat” this young boy was. His moves made me regret not learning how to shoot videos with my iPhone. This was an FB moment.
They took the table across from where I sat with a friend. His companions didn’t seem interested. They were busy with their own devices.
My friend suggested we move to another table. I didn’t mind the loud music. I asked her instead to remember how it was when we were their age. With a sad chuckle, we both realized that it was a whole lifetime ago.
Calculating that these boys and girls wearing ripped jeans and cropped T-shirts were in their teens or younger, we placed ourselves right smack in the middle of World War II, the Japanese Occupation. Those were dark and difficult years and no, we would not have been in a restaurant ordering pizzas and Cokes.
Girls stayed home a lot in those days. We had a long list of chores to do. My task was to dust and polish the living room furniture, and that included two pianos, two mecedoras (rocking chairs), an assortment of side tables and chairs, and a beautiful mahogany chess table.
The chairs had ornate straight backs and seats of woven bejuco. They were not too comfortable and were such a pain to clean.
My favorite task was cleaning the solid narra pasamano. It meant keeping the dark green persianas and capiz panels wide open, scrubbing away the dirt and debris from their tracks, and polishing the ledge with a flannel rag and pungent wood oil.
It gave me a chance to gaze out the window at the cars, calesas and bicycles on Calle Legarda. There was always action, but never traffic.
I took my sweet time. I watched the people. I wondered how and where they lived, and where they were all going. What were their dreams and how close were they to attaining them?
I still do that now, especially at airports. Don’t you?
Tia Pilar Corrales, our spinster aunt who lived with us, scolded us if she saw us “hanging out the window.” She said we looked like holgazanas who had nothing better to do, and it didn’t speak well of us when we dawdled at the window, as it gave the impression that we were looking for boys.
Yet every afternoon at four, Tia Pilar would powder her nose, fix her hair, dab on jasmine perfume and stand at that window. A handsome gentleman in a white suit would pause under where she stood, look up, touch the brim of his hat and walk away. She remained motionless, her blue eyes all lit up, and a faint smile on her lips. The ritual continued until we moved to San Juan. There was a sad tale behind it.
I rein in my thoughts back to the present.
The music is over. There is hardly any conversation. And I wonder if these kids ever look up from their iPads. Have they even seen what’s outside their windows? Do they know where they are?
Are your children missing out?
If their eyes are glued all day to a screen with a backlight, and if their rapt attention is focused on artificial creatures, or on games that awaken thrills of terror in their hearts, they are missing out big time.
If your child’s immediate concern at home or wherever he goes is how and where to quickly plug in to a power source to get unlimited and uninterrupted WiFi time, you have a problem.
There has been a spate of articles in media lately that tell about the ill effects of these gadgets on the brains of little children. Please, is anyone listening?
I had a chat with an architect the other day, and I asked what’s topmost in his mind when he designs a house.
“When a client calls me to build him his dream home, I need to ask many questions. I must know his lifestyle before I even sharpen my pencil. There is no set formula for a design.
“For instance, there was this ‘confirmed bachelor’ who wanted a family room. I asked him what for? He said, ‘Doesn’t every house have one?’
“There are also meticulous clients who are sticklers about orientation. They choose a property because it has a view of sunrise or sunset or both. So I design a house with that in mind, and he covers every window with heavy drapes.
“Some people I know have large homes with a room for every purpose, but they live holed up in their bedrooms. What a waste!”
I have wonderful memories of sitting on the floor in our sala, surrounded by family; of lingering at table long after dessert. We talked. We laughed. We shared life.
That was my best time.
How I wish this for my children and grandkids! Nothing beats the warmth of home and family. No click of the iPad will ever give them such joy.
Windows surround my bedroom on the second floor of my casita. From my bed I see treetops and stars. On stormy nights I see trees dancing in the wind, bright flashes of lightning; I hear the distant thunder. But I feel sheltered, safe. And I am grateful.