Janet Sheridan: Death to Angry Birds

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Janet Sheridan

Even as I use and appreciate the technology embraced by younger generations, I mourn the passing of my world.

Icons from my past are slipping away. Soon future generations, reading with idle curiosity about my era, will gasp with disbelief and ask one another, “How did people manage to live like that?”

For a school assignment in eighth grade, I asked my grandmother to tell me about life in the olden days. I forgot her words as soon as I wrote my paper, but I still remember her touch as she smoothed my bangs away from my eyes and the wistful expression on her face as she responded.

At the time, I thought speaking of her youth saddened her because she was old with gnarled hands and shadowed vision.

Now, as I near the age she was then, I believe the expression on her face was one of longing for the scents, sights, people, and pastimes of the days I regarded as nothing more than a school assignment about ancient customs.

I’m beginning to understand how my ancestors felt as new advances altered their world: as they realized that the lives they led would gradually become inconceivable to the young.

I wouldn’t want to do without modern conveniences — telephones that don’t anchor me to the radius of a 5-foot cord, food processors that mince an onion in seconds, automatic garage doors that welcome me home — but I also notice the disappearance of many things that gave me pleasure: vegetable gardens dotting every backyard, the unobtrusive click and whir of hand-propelled lawn mowers, the smell of baking bread wafting from open windows.

And books.

I like my e-reader: it can be read in the dark, never loses my place, and holds more novels than I need when I travel. But, I don’t connect with it personally the way I do with books.

My childhood copy of "Little Women" still falls open to my favorite parts. Bookmarking pages on an e-reader will never be as meaningful.

It’s impossible for me to sense previous readers without the clues provided by paper pages: coffee stains, penciled notations, watermarks like the trace of a tear.

An e-reader isolates me from the community of others who enjoyed a book.

When I finish a novel that has captivated me, I ease my return to reality by sitting quietly in the book’s world for a few minutes, holding the volume, smoothing my hand across its cover, saying goodbye to its characters.

Thoughtfully caressing an iPad seems odd.

Libraries, too, are becoming less familiar.

A few years ago, Joel and I visited the new medical school in Denver where Dr. Thomas Told, formerly of Craig, is employed. While touring the facility, we stopped by the library, a small room housing chairs and tables for laptop use and a portable bookrack with approximately 20 reference books. Nothing else.

Dr. Told noticed my confusion — “This is a library?” — and explained that students access all their textbooks and supplementary materials online.

In the future, public school and community libraries will also become less familiar.

Most have already lost two longtime fixtures: unabridged dictionaries on sturdy wooden pedestals where generations of young people supplemented their knowledge of human reproduction, and the card catalogues that gave neophyte scholars an air of public sophistication as they slid open an endless drawer and leafed through its cards.

Somehow tapping away on a computer doesn’t seem as scholarly as poring over a reference book or thumbing through the card catalogue.

I remembered looking at my classroom library years ago and smiling at children clustered around a book, enraptured by its illustrations and text.

Recently, I saw my three grandchildren grouped around a computer with the same concentration and enjoyment, but the sight didn’t tug at my heart.

They were probably killing Angry Birds.

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