Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rediscovering family through Skype

A year ago, I viewed Skype as merely a tool of communication. Today, with over 5000 miles standing between me and all things once familiar, this little gem of technology proves to lessen homesickness, one session at a time.

When my husband and I decided to trade Romania, our small European country, for the glamour of Chicago, there was nothing holding us back. No kids, no loans and, thanks to our upbringings, (I grew up without a father, while his was an alcoholic) no strong family ties. We loved our parents, but not in a “7th Heaven” kind of way. Instead, there was a mutual agreement to make weekly phone calls and twice a year visits. For years, it worked out just fine.
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But then we moved and all of the sudden, none of these rules applied anymore. Although I wouldn't call it a typical case of homesickness, we did found ourselves longing for familiar faces. So after two weeks of landing in our new country, we gave Skype a shot.

First, we spoke with my mom and her husband. They huddled together in front of the laptop, with beaming smiles, pressing wrong buttons on the keyboard, in an attempt to turn on the web camera. The conversation went smoothly, no awkward silences. They had a lot of question; we had a lot of things to brag about. Our visit to downtown Chicago, buying a car, the arrival of our Green Cards were all examples of our new life in America. When we ran out of things to talk about, my husband suggested a tour of our house. They enthusiastically nodded their heads.

In the same way we would do in real life, before having people coming over, we tried to tidy the one bedroom apartment we rented in Chicago as fast as possible. Mismatched socks, dirty laundry and old editions of Real Simple magazine were crammed into the nearest closet. I even lit up a scented candle to make the living room more welcoming.

But when my husband swirled the laptop around the kitchen, he almost blew our cover by getting dangerously close to a pile of greasy dishes sitting in the sink. I'm pretty sure I had a mini heart attack.

An hour later, as we said our goodbyes, we realized we have had one of the few, if not, the first normal, heartwarming talk with them.
This therapeutic experience got me thinking about how Skype acts like a psychological cushion for millions of people around the world. That web camera is the closest thing to a face to face encounter with our distant loved ones. In some cases, like ours, it’s even better than that. Somehow, seeing each other through 16-inches laptop displays, made us even more aware of the 5000 miles between Romania and Chicago. We were then more inclined to ditch the drama and keep things light and fun. And that’s just the way (online) family time should be.

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