My wife Monika and I went to my parents’ house at 8:30 this morning to open presents. My brother and his family flew in from their home in Colorado, which they do every other year. My grandmother Elsie Battaglia lives in Portland, Oregon and is 98 years old, so she no longer visits at the holidays. However, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, she participated in the present opening via video conference using iChat on my brother’s MacBook computer. We set the laptop up on the coffee table by the Christmas tree, and she was able to ‘be there.’
This sounds like it might be awkward or impersonal, but it wasn’t at all. The kids seemed to really like showing off each new gift they received by holding it up close to the camera. Grandma’s live-in helper Claudia would describe the goings on on screen to Grandma, who has lost much of her sight in recent years to macular degeneration. Both Claudia and Grandma really seemed to enjoy the experience. Grandma bought a 24″ iMac about a year ago specifically for video conferencing with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so this wasn’t the first time she’s done conferencing. But it was the first time she joined in opening presents Christmas morning around the tree.
I set up my video camera on a tripod and let it record a segment. I think it turned out great because you can see Grandma on the laptop and you can see everyone interacting with her almost as if she were sitting on the couch in person. I heartily recommend you try this at home with your loved ones that can’t travel for important events. It was really a special day today.