Monday, February 05, 2007

Bringing the Family With Me

originally uploaded by shainelee.
Mrs. Mata and I were chatting on the phone the other night. We do that because we are married and, even after 12 years, we fancy each other. I raised the topic that our being apart this time around is different from the one time years ago when we were recently married and I came back to Austin to go to school at UT. What is different this time around is that we used to talk on the phone once a week, ten years ago. Long distance calling was expensive. The best rate was from Sprint at 10 cents per minute. So, for a one hour talk, I would spend a bit over $6. We did a lot of letter writing because paper and postage were cheap.

This time around, we chat a great deal on the phone because we both have mobile phones. We could probably survive without them, but they have become so convenient for getting things done. There is one drawback to being so connected, however. The only record of our love and devotion to each other is the number of phone calls that show up on our monthly statement. Furthermore, it's so easy to stay in touch that our communication isn't as meaningful as our letters were. I think, more than what we talk about, the most meaningful thing is simply the fact that we bother to call each other. I do it to hear her voice more than having anything to talk about. What does she care about bills and resolutions? As long as I'm not helping raise her taxes, what I do here doesn't matter at home.

When we wrote letters, we could go back and read our favorite sections over and over again. There are other things you can do in a letter, like draw pictures, or show signs of fatigue when your writing is all messed up. We were also able to write, pause, and write again later, anywhere without having to sit at a keyboard. We could, technically, shoot emails at each other and attach photos, but it lacks the personal touch you get from a hand written letter.

One thing I do think is better is that on my Flickr account, I can see my family photos anywhere. The photo above is of my son when he was a baby. He's 5 years old now. My point is that I would have to bring a family album with me to be able to see my family. With the Internet, and Flickr, I can see them from my apartment or from work whenever I feel the need. Mrs. Mata is also able to send me pics from her phone, which was unheard of a decade ago.

It's strange. Things have become less personal, yet more personalized. My people are as far away as a computer terminal anywhere in the world and as instantly reachable as a quick phone call to burn up an insane amount of minutes on my phone plan. Distance is no longer a great barrier as it is a damned inconvenience. Although my family is not with me physically, I see them and talk to them anywhere I go. I'll be home soon, and we'll have much to catch up on, oddly.

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