2018. Twelve new students wanted to sign up for my French courses, including an eight-year-old girl. I was delighted and excited by the success of my little announcement. Two days later, after having ordered French textbooks, songs and a bi-lingual Lotto game, I had a small heart attack. I had forgotten that I was over 80. It was the end of my years of teaching. Our family wore masks in the hospital because the patient next to me couldn’t stop coughing. Does anybody want a textbook?
2018. Douze nouveaux étudiants voulaient s’inscrire dans mes cours de français, y compris une fille de 8 ans; j’étais ravie et enthousiasmée par le succès de ma petite annonce! Deux jours plus tard, après avoir commandé des livres de français, des chansons, un jeu de loto bi-lingue, j’ai eu une petite crise cardiaque. J’avais oublié que j’avais plus de 80 ans. C’était la fin de mes années comme “prof.” Notre famille portait des masques dans l’hôpital car le patient à côté de moi ne pouvait cesser de tousser. Quelqu’un désire-t-il une grammaire?
What was he thinking, feeling, 15 years ago? We watched him, now our Silicon Valley start-up grandson, leave us, walking along the Pacific alone. He was headed back to his last month of college life after a semester in Costa Rica for his double biology/Spanish major. We had spent five days together in Costa Rica’s Corcovado national park on the Osa peninsula. We’d seen a puma, monkeys. He was happy one moment, pensive the next. “I love being a kid. I don’t really ever want to grow up.”
Que pensait-il, ressentait-il, il y a 15 ans? Nous l’avons regardé, notre petit-fils, maintenant “entrepreneur en démarrage dans La Silicon Valley,” nous quitter, marchant le long du Pacifique, seul. Il retournait a son dernier mois de la vie universitaire après un semestre au Costa Rica pour sa spécialité biologie-espagnol. On avait passé 5 jours ensemble dans le parc national de Corcovado sur la péninsule d’Osa. Nous avons vu un puma, des singes. Il était heureux un moment, pensif le suivant. “J’adore être un gosse. Je ne veux jamais grandir.”
My dear friend Deborah gave me this scarf for my birthday. It’s a gigantic map of Paris. I love it. It has become my ‘Ningaminny,’ a word my older brother invented when he was two, dragging his ‘blanky’ behind him, sucking his thumb. What I love is that the scarf shows my address when I was a student in Paris in 1952, 66 Avenue de Saxe. The Pasteur statue was just a little way from our apartment. What great memories!
Ma chère amie Deborah m’a présenté cette écarpe pour ma fête, un plan gigantesque de Paris. Je l’adore. Elle (l’écharpe) est devenue mon “Ningaminny”, un mot inventé par mon frère aîné quand il avait 2 ans, traînant sa petite couverture derrière lui en souçant son pouce. Ce que j’aime, c’est que l’écharpe montre mon adresse en 1952 quand j’étais étudiante à Paris, 66 avenue de Saxe. Le monument Pasteur était à deux pas de notre appartement. Quels beaux souvenirs!
It is almost too late to say farewell to dear old humanity. Millennials are bewitched by the little box in their palm, thumbing a message to a kid three feet away. Why use face muscles or try to read another person’s puzzling expression when an emoji does it for us. Study those emojis. They rob the richness of a human face longing to connect and slip us a choice instead of 40 yellow idiot dots. We click on one, send a text, we’re linked! Five people text us back. We’re popular! But then why are we so lonely, so isolated, so prone to take drugs? Why do we fall for these gadgets?
Infotech isn’t a new thing, we’ve had IT creep for years. Our human capacities simply got overwhelmed….we couldn’t handle the information age without Google to the rescue. Before that it was Xerox. Copies linked us then buried us. With so much to read, so much to worry about- a bus crash in Bolivia- we know we are ‘losing it.’ Change is unmooring us. The pressure on our humanness gets greater every minute. We are desperate for a little free time. But where? How about meals? Such a waste cooking, serving, chewing, swallowing. Smoothies to the rescue, or take out. Double up with cell phone news, more texting, ads buffeting us. If others are at the table, they are texting too. We try multi-tasking. A friend got a text from someone walking the labyrinth in meditation. I watch a father running, pushing his baby on an outing, a good thing. But he’s on his smart phone and oh, he’s getting in his nightly jog. Forget relating to the baby.
Relating to the baby. Here is the real crux of how we are abandoning our humanity. Our little ones are turning to their cell phones for the comfort and reassurance they are not getting in relationships with the adults at home. Life seems grim, nothing but competing teams, a race from kindergarten through college to perform, to do well, to succeed, to win. Win what? We do not communicate to our youngest generation the value of simply being alive and goofing off now and then, dreaming! Living is perilous: quick, drugs.
Parents are stressed, school is stressed, jobs are stressed, our globe is stressed. But is life any more dangerous than it was in World War II or the Cold War or Korea or Vietnam when a nuclear threat hung over us? We are in a time of relative peace, yet our frenzy accelerates. We most need to reestablish the best left of our vanishing humanity: the ability to relate. Let us reassure our children in wisdom, face to face, that life is a wonderful gift and give them time to enjoy it.