Zoom to Do

Chasing Technology
Modine

Every disaster has a bright side. 

My niece Flambeau probably won’t remember her second birthday, back on April Fools’ Day. But the rest of us will. 

That was just when everybody finally got serious about isolating theirselves in place because of the virus.

 But her mother, my sister-in–law, Gloriosa, ain’t about to cancel her birthday party.

Flambeau is her youngest. Just like Gloriosa herself was the youngest. But there ain’t hardly any pictures of  Gloriosa, when she was little, despite the fact that she was a gorgeous child. Or so she’s been told. Maybe that gorgeousness didn’t happen until later, when her boobs sprung out. She’ll never know.

So Flambeau is going to have photographic evidence of every single milestone. Including her second birthday.

Gloriosa had this party planned and the favors and the cake ordered and the six little guests decided on months ago. 

She just has to make few adjustments.

So she called my brothers-in-law-law Leech and Lurch, who have started their own temporary business: MMD, for Masked Men’s  Delivery (Motto: “Six Feet Away & Sterilized”). 

She has them deliver pre-packaged cupcakes and plastic-sealed party hats for each little guest and their mommy —all friends from the Diapers to Destiny play group (Motto: “We’ll get into Harvard without bribes”). 

She sends email invitations to explains how each mommy can use her smart phone to get onto the online birthday party, presented through that Zoom website everybody’s using now. 

When each mommy-and-child clicks in, they appear in little frames like Hollywood Squares. Everybody is wearing party hats, and the mommies have even put on their bras again for this rare social occasion.

I am in a frame too, and Gloriosa shares her frame with her two older kids and Flambeau, plus Flambeau’s grandma, Ms. Larda,  standing on a box outside peering through the window behind them, because she don’t want to expose herself and she ain’t figured out Zoom yet. 

Everybody gets introduced. Everybody sings Happy Birthday—but before everybody unwraps their cupcakes, Gloriosa plays a cute little cartoon video about handwashing. All the guests are supposed to watch it and sing the song while washing their hands in their own bathroom.

It’s a lot to do at one time, even if you are destined for Harvard.

There’s a lot of splashing, and then panicky mommy voices,  and Flambeau’s friend Zooey disappears from the screen. We see a pattern of soap bubbles on Derya’s image, then she disappears. Theo and Quinn blink out at almost the same time. But the handwashing song chirps on, cheerful as can be, until  the only two kids left are Elyza, whose  hands are being cleaned by another set of hands  (Maybe Daddy’s home?) and Flambeau, whose brother is holding  the smartphone while Gloriosa does the washing.

By the cupcake-eating time, only three frames are left (I washed ahead of time), Elyza’s, and the one with Gloriosa’s family. Gloriosa don’t care. She snapped a screen grab of the party when everybody’s picture was still in the frame, before all the other smartphones drowned. She’ll put it in Flambeau’s memory book, which was the point.

She probably has wine in that birthday punch cup. Anyway, she don’t notice that outside Ms. Larda throws up her arms and flails and disappears. 

It takes me a couple minutes myself, to realize that it wasn’t just Ms. Larda’s picture that vanished. It was Ms. Larda herself. 

My heart ticks. She is in the virus target group. Did it get her that quick?

My phone  rings, and it’s Ms Larda. I click off Zoom and answer.  Come to find out,  the dog got out, and  put his cold nose up her skirt and she shrieked and fell and got to her feet and stepped in dog poo and scraped it off and sprinted to her car, and wants to know if dogs carry the virus.

I Google it. Nope, not dogs. Just bats. 

Fine, she says. She’s going home now, and she’s getting online, and she’s going to figure out Zoom. Just like she figured out how to text after Katrina.

So that’s the bright side.