Memorial Day weekend is here. This is a time for remembering those who have died, a somber way to start the summer. Our town has a Memorial Day parade and ceremonies — one at the cemetery and another at the wharf, where those who have died at sea are honored. Memorial Day in Rockport is sorrowful, and momentous, and sometimes even funny — like that time a kid who was marching with the Middle School Band accidentally dropped his flute in the ocean.
After Monday, the summer truly begins, even if the academic year has developed the awful rhythm of extending into June — a miserable change in custom if there ever was one (won’t someone consider the poor teachers!). In our household, we pretend school is over the Friday before Memorial Day, even if truancy laws demand that in practice, the oldest kid still go every day until it is mercifully over and he is released into summer.
If we can’t beat the Department of Education around here, at least we can beat the Juggernaut of Entertainment. We are going to rid our household of WiFi for the summer — and maybe forever. The Internet has become an oppressive presence, Netflix and Amazon Prime are always just a device away, and there are far too many places to sit or lie down in this house. It was either get rid of the chairs and beds or get rid of the Internet. We chose the latter. The reality of this so-called difficult choice is that American society is riddled with Internet access, so it’s not like I’m going to be deprived. If I’m desperate, I can go to a coffee shop with a pair of earbuds, or even sit in the parking lot at my local library for crying out loud, where WiFi wafts outside the walls, free and uncensored, available to taxpayers and scofflaws alike.
I’m tired of spending so much time online. I’m tired of my kids spending so much time online. Protocols, rules, time limits, etc. — they are not working for our family any longer. Maybe hitting the reset button (oh, how I will miss the thrill of hitting the reset button on my router, waiting for the Internet to return after a power outage!) will be enough, and, after this hiatus we can return to WiFi flowing through our house, offering an instantaneous portal to other worlds. In the meantime, I plan on trying to live more in the world that is more immediate and available to the touch. My senses have been blunted from being so divorced from nature.
I went to the beach with the kids yesterday, and sat there while the tide came in, and my son tried to catch crabs in his underpants. It was kind of cold, and the hummus I brought got sand in it. I saw a bird I didn’t recognize (which is pretty much all birds) and tried to Google it before it flew away and I forgot its identifying characteristics. I read three paragraphs of an article before I gave up and checked Facebook. Yep, people had been discussing and sharing things on Facebook the whole time I had been trying to read the article. After an hour and a half, time was up and we walked home, my daughter barefoot and weeping because the plastic shovel was so heavy. Back at home, the WiFi router had been emitting a signal the entire time we were gone. The whole house was full of the Internet, and I hadn’t been there to partake. What a waste.
What a waste it is, even though I love the Internet, event though it makes much of what I like to do even possible. But unlimited access is costly in every way, and we cannot afford it.
I hope Memorial Day weekend is meaningful for all of us. We seek to honor the dead directly and indirectly — by engaging in an honorable life. I’m going to try harder this summer. I will see how it goes. And besides, if I get really lonely, there is always my phone, its memory stuffed with apps for social media.