Sleep walking through my morning Facebook check, I noticed one of us had left the radio on somewhere. And, even though most days I find music distracting when I’m at my desk, I started singing along: “What if God were one of us…..”
Just my usual before work, writing-for-pay Facebook peek, I told myself. I’d be “in and out” in a few points and clicks and on to the productive part of my day. Then, mid-screen, something caught my eye and held it longer than any of the TGIF-type postings I was scrolling past in speed-read mode. A friend, so new her profile picture was still set on the generic girl icon,wrote: “Traveling first class now! LOL ” Still humming along about God sitting next to me on a bus, I had my usual reaction to ”wish you were here” updates like that: jealousy-tinged curiosity. “Who was this? And why did she need to tell me she was somewhere more exciting?” I’d have to find out, of course, before going about my business. That’s when her username hit me and stopped me cold. “Mum” it said, short and sweet, in hot-link blue.
I slumped back in my computer chair, then sat at attention. “Mum is on Facebook?!” I whispered to myself. “I don’t even remember seeing her friend request! And who could she possibly be traveling first class with? Not my dad. They always went coach or standby.” I leaned in closer to click her link for answers and, hopefully, a recent picture or two. Then I woke up.
“Woah,” I thought, staring up at the knotty pine above my bed and listening to the lake come alive. “I haven’t had a Mum dream in a long time.” At first, when I desperately wanted them, any dreams of her would be fleeting and bittersweet, leaving me feeling alone all over again. She’d be far away, out of focus, and I’d be running to catch up with her, tell her I loved her and say goodbye. I’d wake up still a lost teenage girl, mad at a God who’d taken my mother, my best friend, when I was just venturing out in the world. Eventually, as I learned to lose my anger and heal my grief, I slowly opened up to the possibility she was never really very far away. By the time I was 40, we were back to having mother-daughter chats and happier middle of the night visits. When she did check in with me, it was a fun, laid back “whassup?” sort of encounter.
“Hey there, just popped over to say bon voyage!” she chirped. She’d stopped by the condo I was about to rent in the Caribbean and was sitting on the lanai, perpetually tanned and relaxed.
“Mum, you’re here?” I asked. “How did you get to Bonaire before me? I’m not even there yet!”
“Well,” she said, squint-smiling out at the turquoise water. “When you can go anywhere you want anytime you want, you’ll be right here, too.”
Not long after that dream (and a dream vacation in Bonaire), Mum and I had another impromptu discussion about the logistics of our new relationship. “I’m so glad you still come to see me once in awhile now that I live up in Rangeley,” I told her. “Looks like having me three and a half hours farther north doesn’t make much difference between us. But I still really want to know about Heaven. What’s it like? Where exactly is it?” She didn’t answer in words, but sent me spiraling away, up out of the dream and back into my bed. And just before she laid me down surrounded by knotty pine and balsam breezes, she whisked me out over the lake and through the white birches, stopping to hover at the glider rocker where I sat most mornings having coffee and giving thanks for my new life.
“So not only does she have coffee and sit in the sun with me,” I marveled after the latest visit just before Mother’s Day, “she’s joined my social network! She’s on Facebook!” I hugged myself and stared up at the knotty pine for a long time, not wanting to come fully down to earth yet. When I finally did get up and about, the wispy veil between me and my dreams didn’t recede, but kept everything cast in a hazy realm of possibility. “Wouldn’t that be a cool?” I murmured. “That would add a whole new dimension to my networking.” I’d have Facebook “acquaintances” (those folks I sort of remember from around town and way back in high school); friends; close friends and family (who Facebook thinks you want to stay in step with every waking minute) and now, my family beyond. That new outer sphere in my online circle would hold a big chunk of family−assuming they all gained computer wisdom in the next life.
“I like an off-color joke, you know, but the ones that Jack and Gerie Spencer are sending…well, dear, they show pictures of orgies!” my step-mom, Prudy, exclaimed. It was back during dial-up days and I was helping her clean out her in-box after another long stay at Maine Medical. When I explained as best I could about email viruses−that Jack and Gerry didn’t really intend to send her orgy pictures−she heaved a big sigh. Living in Kezar Falls, she was tickled to keep up with her far away friends on a desktop my step-brother, John, hobbled together out of parts. But she was going to have to be less gregarious with her daily prayer, recipe and “Hallmark moment” subscriptions, I told her. She just didn’t have the bandwidth or storage capacity on her email server. “I understand, dear,” she said. “John told me those nice pictures would draw very slowly…something about all that ink coming down the phone line.”
Her password was “baldgranny” and we were blessed that she remembered it in between chemo rounds so she could log on and tell us how terrific it was to stay connected out in the pucker brush. Prudy did cross the bridge toward computer literacy, but never made it to broadband or past “clunking” with her mouse on a low-res screen. She’d be all over Facebook, though. And I’m pretty sure we’d have to convince Mark Zuckerberg to add a “Wonderful” button next to the “Like” one ’cause Prudy would want to clunk that like crazy!
What a new age that would be, I thought, if all of us could reconnect. Then, not only would I be allowed to chat with my daughters and many of their friends (having earned my status as one of the non-creepy online moms). I’d have a really special Internet Service Provider hooking me up to my moms and others beyond the wall. “Yup, I’m up to 209 regular Facebook friends,” I’d brag. “Plus, last I looked, about 12 spirit Facebook friends!”
Dad, I’m sure, would be sharing his biggest fish pictures ever. By now, he’d have blown way past his dog-eared Maine Atlas and even Google Earth in his quest for mapping all his “secret” spots. I’m also pretty sure my father-in-law, Lee, would be a lifetime-plus subscriber to ancestry.com, posting links to Clough databases far beyond his off-line ’80s research. Peering over his shoulder, a comfortable distance from actually having to touch a keyboard, my mother-in-law, Ruth, would be happy to see “all those pictures you can’t take with regular film anymore.” And Mum, well she’d have graduated from Internet for Dummies with honors. With speed and grace honed from years of sharing everything she ate, said and did with her folks in Chicago by way of an Underwood typewriter, she would be a “real whiz” by now. No corny joke, cutesy quote, or “you gotta see this” clip that made its way on her wall would go unshared with me, my sister, Jan, and half of Heaven and earth!
“Then I really wouldn’t get any work done,” I concluded, slowly returning to my usual, semi-rational state. Between waiting to see if Helen and Becky’s chat buttons flashed green, keeping up with Jan “poke, poke, poking” me every few seconds, and posting my own riveting Rooted In Rangeley updates, I’d be glued to Facebook. Just like the social media critics warn, I’d be “forever stuck in high school” with my virtual friends−stuck, right where my Mum and I left off, swapping silly girl talk filled with smiley faces and hearts, and a few YouTube shots of her dancing in the kitchen.
For the first time this year, I posted a Facebook picture of Mum on Mother’s Day. I wished I could have found one of her out on the lake wearing her huge straw hat from Zayre’s department store. (The one I remember had a gaudy orange scarf attached to it so it wouldn’t blow off, and Jan and I swore if she ever wore it anywhere near shore we would act like we didn’t know her.) Instead, I had to settle for scanning in the last good Polaroid of her. The image was pixelated, grainy, but her trademark grin had never faded as it smiled back from my timeline.
It was only up on my wall for a couple seconds before Jan commented: “Miss you, Mum. XO Talk soon!″
(Author’s Note: I post this today for my Mum, my forever best friend, who died suddenly on July 25th, 1974. She’s found some very special ways to come back to me since. To read more about it, see my Come and Meet Those Dancing Feet stories.)