Easter Skype 2014
Katie, our oldest daughter, leans into the camera with her wild curly auburn hair pulled back and her bright blue eyes beaming through the monitor. Her husband Bobby has grown a beard, and my husband Tim teases, “Don’t they shave for Easter mass in Seattle?” Brendan’s face pops on to an adjacent screen, his bright red hair, translucent complexion, and huge blue eyes take command of the camera, similar to his LA life dreams. Brigid pops on the screen! “Happy Easter, Mom!” Do not weep. Do not cry with joy. I squelch my desire to jump through the computer to hug the west coast children. Brigid also studies in Seattle and has goals to change the world. Suddenly, Bethy, hair flopping in a high blonde ponytail, appears with a huge grin. She looks radiant, relaxed as she lay on her stomach on her bed and rests on her elbows. “Happy Easter, Mom, how was grandma’s?” Kevin asks, “Which one?” “Both.” “Both are good.” We report on the health of the pillars of each family – Tim and I are well aware of the prominent role our mothers have played in establishing the traditions and roots of the extended families. Our fathers passed away years ago, and “the grandma’s” are central to all things Neylon and Scannell-related.
All eight beaming, faces appear at the bottom of the screen –Brendan, clear-eyed, witty, and funny expertly taking his turn speaking to the electronic device; next, Brigid, natural, blue-eyed and gorgeous, patiently listening and absorbing, a true undergrad scholar; center Katie, a modern day, lean Maureen O’Hara and her gentle, loving husband Bobby; a strange box, out of place, labeled “Nancy”; and to the far right, Bethy, our graduating Loyola Chicago law student, boisterous, energetic, and ready to fight for those on the cusp of society.
Tim and Kevin, our youngest, flank me on either side. I marvel at the Irish faces, each unique and fiercely independent. Christmas Eve to Easter, so long since we’ve all been “together.” Tim and I rarely skype – for me, it opens the raw wound of distance. But today, it’s different. Today, I take what I can get, and I want to soak up every second of the wonders the kids have grown to be.
“Grandma Neylon is good. She was going to brunch with Aunt Eileen’s family,” why is there so little to talk about? Why are we struggling for conversation? “Grandma Scannell’s was really fun.” I list off the aunts, uncles and cousins who were there and who was not. The faces nod and smile from the laptops. I am providing an attendance report, but I don’t mind – just keep the conversation going, so I can continue to see them – all together all at once. “Tommy hurt his knee.” “Billy has gotten so tall,” says Kevin. The expressions go blank. Someone says, “Oh, Maggie has a boyfriend.” The features shift with that news – all smiles. One says, “I heard about that at Christmas. He was new then.”
The conversation gets more stilted, and I ask Kevin to switch seats with me. Maybe if Kevin is in front of the screen, they will stay on longer. Katie says, “Kevin, how was the art show?” “It was fun.” I say, “His exhibit was great.” Brigid reminisces about her Indiana high school drawings, and I ask if she ever draws anymore. I do not know. I do not know what she does besides study, attend class, and see friends. What does she do between classes? What is her morning routine? Does she still have crazy sleep habits? Does she still eat semi-dark chocolate chips right out of the bag?
“Kevin, go get some of your artwork, so we can see it,” Katie encourages. She’s a lifesaver – that will keep them online. I describe the pieces, and Kevin brings one canvas up from the basement. I hold it to the camera, and they all say things like “cool,” “great colors,” “wow.” I prod Kevin to go get another painting.
“I like your tie, Kevin,” Katie compliments. Kevin has adopted his own personal style. At seventeen, he is long and lean, and he wears his strawberry blonde hair straight up – like somebody famous that I don’t know. The older kids are completely at peace with themselves, and like them, Kevin is defining his identity according to his own tastes, hopes, and dreams.
The conversation fizzles, but everyone is too kind to end it. Bethy frees us from the confines of the computer, “Well, I have some work to do.” I feel the chair shift behind me. It’s over. They are packing up. We don’t make promises to skype more often. We don’t set a date when we will all log on. Instead, we honestly say, “I love you, Happy Easter.”