Attending a writer’s conference, I call front desk and ask for a different room with two beds because my daughter will also be there. Through the phone line, I can hear the clicking of the computer and in just a few minutes, the clerk returns with good news. “I found you a nice room with two queen-sized beds, ma’am,” he says. “The bellboy will be up with your new keys momentarily.”
Sitting at the edge of the bed, I take special care not to wrinkle the covers and look at the pool area through French doors. It is in the nineties today and many people are enjoying the water or lying in the sun. Three little girls are splashing water at each other and I marvel at their relentless screams. With the sound of computer keyboard still in my head, I ask myself, how did the big hotels solve such room problems before the computer era? I can’t remember exactly when I became so dependent on the variety of new gadgets, but it’s hard to imagine a life without answering machines, cell phones, and computers. Oh, if only all life’s problems could be resolved with the click of a button! I picture a world with “digital” memories and the power to ‘save’ the blessings, ‘delete’ the scars.
In my mind, I log on to “favorites” and open a file that I have saved for twenty-nine years. It’s a video clip of me, taking tiny steps on Chicago’s thin shield of ice, holding my round belly with both hands as if it’s a crystal ball I fear I might drop. The image is so vivid that for a second, I can feel the gentle push inside me as the baby kicks. That precious foot will soon find its way out of my middle and right into my heart.
Motherhood has to be my biggest file, about two thousand gigabytes – if not more. It begins with long nights when, unable to fall asleep on my back, I listen to my heartbeat and wonder if it’s one and the same as the baby’s. The worrisome nights expand over decades into a time when all I needed to fall asleep was the beam of headlights in our driveway and the sound of garage door closing.
Reluctant to let go of the memories, I have saved them all, disregarding the increased volume that has slowed down my functions. There they are under different titles, my children’s moments, my youth, and forgotten dreams. After watching a few more baby scenes and first birthday parties, I click ‘close’.
“Do you want to save this file?” the laptop is asking.
There are no buttons for “you bet” or “what a silly question”, so I simply press, “Yes.”
Back to ‘favorites’, I click on ‘Age three’ and hear lightening outside my window and as its brightness shatters the dark, I see my little one crossing our bedroom. I hear the rustling of sheets and feel the softness of flannel pajamas as she reaches up to unload her teddy bear and a frayed baby blanket on the bed. I push the covers aside and reach down to help her climb before wrapping my arms around her. Pressing my nose into the fragrance of Johnson’s baby shampoo, I inhale pure joy. Outside, it sounds as if the rain will last a while, but cuddling her, I don’t care if it plans to wash away the world.
It’s good practice to occasionally check these files, do a little housekeeping, and throw a few useless documents in the trash bin. I come across a stack of worry files I’ll no longer need: Will her chicken pox leave any marks? Trash. Will she make friends in her new school? Trash. Will she get into a good college? Trash. The list goes on and on and, as I discard the unwanted documents, my screen begins to look a lot more organized.
No one’s watching, so I picture being able to access a more personal file. I click on a name that was supposed to have been deleted a long time ago. My computer responds, “The file titled ‘True love’ cannot be opened because it is being used in another location.” I close my eyes and smile. So he remembers!
Ashamed of my own silliness, I try to imagine all the joy I could forward to my friends. And, wouldn’t it be nice to have a “spam guard” for the unwanted gossip, bad news and annoying people like this character, “Virgilio”, who just shows up with the weirdest excuses?
Then again, what would I do if my life completely “crashed” due to a “deadly virus” – one that made it impossible to access my favorites and one that could wipe away my past? Perhaps I should be grateful for living my life just the way it is, after all, a computerized life doesn’t sound all that promising, either, does it?
There’s a knock on the door as the bellboy brings my keys to another room and moves me back to reality.
In the real world, kids are still out there playing in a blue pool. Soon, my daughter and I will be resting in our queen-size beds, separated only by the invisible walls of maturity.