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Tomorrowland arrived today

My youngest son Joseph left home nearly two years ago to be with the love of his life, Marie. She happens to live in the Czech Republic.

We haven’t seen Joe nor Marie since June, when we attended their wedding in Ostrava.

Since then we’ve communicated almost daily via e-mails (he is our Web master, and Food for Thought’s founder, after all), letters, packages and instant Gmail messaging and phone calls, which cost nearly nothing since my smarty-pants son arranged a 530 area-code number for his direct line in Ostrava.

Even so, none of those replace the joy of seeing my son and daughter-in-law in person.

I miss them both so very much.

Not that they haven’t tried to come to the United States for a visit.

To spare my blood pressure, I won’t delve too much into this sore subject of how the United States Embassy in Prague has rejected Marie’s U.S. visa application.

Enough about that.

A miracle occurred recently when we finally received high-speed Internet out in Igo. (Hail Shasta.com!)

This changed our world, in so many ways. It no longer takes five to seven minutes to open or send e-mails. We can watch online slide shows and videos. We can actually send, receive and open photos.

Best of all, high-speed Internet allowed us to see and hear Joe and Marie via a webcam and microphone. Live!

First we bought a little eyeball-looking webcam for about $29. Saturday we downloaded it, and Skype, a companion program that allows us to call Joe and Marie (because they are also Skype customers) for free on our computer.

Sunday morning was the first time I’ve ever fixed my hair, applied a little makeup and tidied the house for a phone call.

It was morning in Igo. Outside our windows the storm blew horizontal sheets of rain.

It was evening in Ostrava. Outside Joe and Marie’s second-story window we could hear nearby church bells clanging.

Truly, I felt as excited and amazed as if I were walking on the moon.

Once connected, and within sight on our respective computer monitors, we waved and laughed. I just couldn’t get over seeing them after so long.

Joe and Marie moved their camera around so we could reacquaint ourselves with their living room, and when they did, I saw their bare feet, which just thrilled me.

In Igo, we picked up our laptop, the little round camera and the microphone and carted it wherever Joe directed us. He asked to see the parts of the house Bruce finished without Joe’s help.

He asked to see my mother’s old oak dining table, the one that held nearly every one of Joe’s birthday cakes and a whole childhood full of his artwork and science projects and homework.

We walked outside and pointed Mr. Eyeball to the long staircase down the hill behind our house, so Marie could see the job that basically funded his trip to see Marie the first time.

We pointed the nosy little webcam toward the hummingbird feeders so Marie could watch them, since, apparently, hummingbirds aren’t common in Central Europe.

We held some of Joe’s baby pictures up to the little eyeball so Marie could see.

She said, “Awww, he’s sooo cute!” then ruffled Joe’s hair and hugged him, which gave me just a million new reasons why I love my daughter-in-law.

We talked for more than an hour. For free! What a world. It’s like Disneyland’s Tomorrowland come true. Phone calls with live video.

You can do it, too.

Think of it: If I – a complete technophobe – could easily follow the directions to download the webcam and the program that allows calls and live video between our house and one on the other side of the world, anyone could do it.

I think of a Redding friend whose grandbabies live in San Diego. I think of couples separated by military duty. I think of pen pals and long lost family and friends. I think this webcam technology is very cool.

Back to our call with Joe and Marie, where, after a while, the thing I’d dreaded most happened.

We ran out of things to talk about.

Joe and Marie already inquired about all the family and friends in the U.S. We already asked about all the family and friends in the Czech Republic.

Finally, we wound down with talk about Mexican food (which Joe misses) and then, inevitably, the weather.

I hated to disconnect that call. It was like a dream I didn’t want to end. Even without anything left to say, I could have watched those two all day and never become bored. I got such a kick out of seeing them together, smiling, laughing, putting their arms around each other.

It would be creepy for Joe and Marie if I just watched them all day. I know that.

Besides, then they might think twice before they answered my next Skype call, or worse yet, close their account.

With that in mind, I grudgingly ended that call.

And happily planned my next one.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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