0719 PV Deborah Paul .jpeg

On Christmas Day, my sister-in-law Pam and niece Rebecca had the sweet idea to contact everyone in the immediate family for a ZOOM get together. 

They e-mailed or called a dozen households to give out the code number. Anticipation built throughout the week for the 4 p.m. screen visit. 

The day came. The Arizona crowd was together for Christmas dinner so we’d get to see a dozen or so of them in one frame. We invited our nephew, Constantine, from the other side of the family who didn’t really know any of the people we were zooming, but he was curious and good naturedly joined Jim and me at the dining room table for the dial in. 

In all, we had folks from Northern California, Arizona, San Pedro, Lake Elsinsore and Rancho Palos Verdes. Unbeknown to us, other family members who were on the tail end of mild bouts of COVID, also tuned in.

The exciting moment came.

One by one, the families popped up in the little squares across my computer screen. Jim and I felt smugly tech savvy among our tweens and teens who Zoom and FaceTime as a way of life. 

Then all chaos commenced.

Everyone started talking at the same time. Nobody understood a word anyone was saying, and no one was directing. The noise was akin to the sounds crows make when someone tosses an order of French fries on the ground at Hesse Park. 

Also, shouting the loudest didn’t help. 

Finally, the squares got deathly quiet until everyone thought the pause meant it was their turn to take the floor. Then the chatter started again. Pure bedlam. 

Someone began controlling the mute button. Not knowing this, Jim tried to shout out a question to cousin Jeff in Los Gatos. As he tried to break in again and again, Jeff kept on talking with no sound. I’m sure what he had to say was very profound, but we’ll never know. By then, we weren’t competitive anymore, and his wife Sue graciously excused herself to answer a phone call. 

The Arizona crowd bowed out first because everyone wanted to open presents or hit the road to their own homes.

Beth, up in Lincoln at her son Doug’s house, braved the conversation the longest, but her husband Chuck bailed before the gathering even got started with the important task of having to feed the dog at their nearby home. Maybe he had a hint of what was coming. 

Then the kids took over, but there was no way Gigi could do a handspring for us in Grandma’s living room and adorable Livi who was having a great time talking into the camera, got muted somehow. Every now and then, Sarah’s blonde curls or Little Jo’s bald head would gleefully bob past the camera’s eye. 

Constantine, the invited participant from the other half of the family threw up his hands, laughed and began contacting his own family or friends on his phone. 

I stared into the screen with a frozen smile and just waved to everyone. I should have worn make-up. Zooming is not flattering to pandemic-slack Nana. 

Setting up the Zoom was a thoughtful gesture, and it was certainly nice to “see” everyone. 

Still, next time we’re going to hire — and money is no object — Gustavo Dudamel to direct our Zoom meeting. He’s the conductor and music director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. 

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