Not Losing That iTouchSunday, August 29, 2010
I have written often here on how my abuelita and I shared a passion for westerns, war movies and swashbucklers. I have written about our common sweet tooth and perhaps not mentioned too often that she considered me to be of an artistic temperament, “Los dos somos artistas,” “We are both artists,” she would stress to my mother when I had done something that was not quite right. My abuelita had the idea that an artist was above some rules of behavior. She ate what she liked and when offered something she didn’t like it was bad for her “delicate” liver.
My grandmother never told me not to do something. She used a very modern approach (or so I have found out). If I didn’t want to eat she would say, “The donkey that got used to not eating died,” or, “He who dies by his own choice will have a choir at this funeral.” Through the years she introduced me to the wisdom of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Because she and I were of the like kind any criticism from my part she took most seriously. I remember that I may have been 7 or 8 years old and she and my mother and I were in the Argentine resort city of Mar Del Plata. I was not well as I had the whooping cough. We were sitting at the dinner table of hotel and both women would point at me and say, “No tosas,” which made it all worse and I would cough anyway. It was at that dinner table that my grandmother sported some large, hanging ear rings “de fantasia” (fake stones). “What do you thing of them Alex?” she asked. I looked at them and told her (I had recently been taken to see Pinocchio), “Parecen orejas de burro,” “They look like donkey’s ears.” She got up from the table, grabbed my hand and she rushed me to the edge of the nearby beach. She removed her earrings and cast them off into the waters of the Atlantic.
On this day of my birthday I miss these women (and too, my father) who made me who I am today. I am aware that like my grandmother I have found a kindred spirit in my granddaughter Rebecca and I have put an effort since she was born in giving her what I have come to define as a parallel education. Because she lives nearby, my effect on her might be a bit stronger than that of my grandmother’s who in my early years, before we all moved to Mexico, had her apartment in town in Buenos Aires while we lived in the near outskirts. It wasn’t until we lived in Mexico that we all lived together and because my mother was a school teacher that Abuelita became my surrogate mother and father.
In this effort to give Rebecca a parallel education (an endeavour in which my wife Rosemary actively concurs) I have come to realize that I must be careful in not stepping on the toes of my daughter, Rebecca’s mother and on Bruce Stewart, Rebecca’s father. I am most grateful that they allow us to take Rebecca gallivanting to Argentina, Uruguay, Washington DC, Mexico and most recently Texas with just her grandfather. I appreciate this level of trust so I try to be careful.
I have watched how Rebecca has competed with her father for the use of the home computer. Her mother has prohibited Rebecca from using our computer (or watching TV) when she visits us on Saturdays and Mondays. I am aware that a girl that is now 13 must have some sort of incentive to want to stay with her vejestorio (old fogies) grandparents and that such restrictions will hasten her soon and predictable, “I don’t want to visit them anymore.” This would be natural.
So when the girls come on Saturdays we try to organize walking visits to VanDusen, the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library and other events and activities that will prevent them from settling down with a computer. Rebecca and I explore the history of my garden roses. She looks at all my photography books and even the books on nude photography with no restriction. She poses, sometimes willingly, for me in the garden when I use big lights. I choose films that I think might give the girls some sort of education. It was many years ago that Rebecca and I sat to watch Gunga Din and we had a very good time at it. She still refuses to watch Beau Geste saying she is much too young to enjoy the predicted complexity of the film. I don’t think so. We will see it soon.
It was about three months ago that I hatched an idea. I was going to buy Rebecca an Apple-refurbished iTouch. All my friends advised me to the contrary. I never did consult Rebecca’s parents on this and Rosemary, not quite understanding what an iTouch was silent and unsupportive on my idea. When Rebecca and parents went to California on a vacation and her birthday was during the vacation I realized that she had not had a birthday party and that we had not given her anything.
I finally made the decision and ordered the iTouch. It came in a big box and when it arrived I was almost as excited as I was when my iPhone came one summer afternoon.
Last Saturday at the dinner table, after a surprise mango birthday cake I produced the iTouch. The excitement in Rebecca’s face was sheer pleasure to me. Alas the pleasure did not last. She and her father “fought” for the device. Her father believes that Apple products are shoddy and does not agree with their proprietary dealings in forcing the users of Apple equipment to use iTunes.
The factory refurbished iTouch failed. It began to intermittently flicker and turn itself off, all on its own. Rebecca lost her temper while her parents pointed out that the gift had been given to her with the best of intentions.
A long story made short (after hours of spending time synching and re-synching the iTouch to my computer, well into the early morning of Sunday) is that I obtained an appointment with the geniuses (that’s what they are called) at the Oakridge Apple Store for Sunday noon. The urbane English tech rep had told me on the phone, “If you are nice they might give you a brand new one.” That was the case. I might have helped the process along. I showed the genius a photo from my iPhone and I told him, “This is a picture of a smiling girl on the day of her birthday (“You lied!” Rebecca told me later.) and the day ended with her crying. You have the power to restore that smile.”
And so it was.
Because Rebecca will be going into the 8th grade in September and will have to ride a transit bus, her parents are doing what most parents are doing these days. They are giving her a cell phone so they can check on her whereabouts. But because they know that brand new teenagers (she is now 13) can be teenagers, they know that she could run up a huge bill in texting, etc. Her phone will have severe restrictions.
I thought that an iTouch with its internet Wi-Fi capabilities would give her the advantages of being able to do what she as a teenager would want to do without the dire financial consequences. I also thought that the odd restrictions of the iTouch (it does not have a camera, it is not a phone) would push Rebecca to find roundabout ways of superseding them and perhaps twisting them to her advantage. Only time will tell. And I can only thank her parents for being so supportive.