Below is an almost-but-not-quite-verbatim account of our tête-à-tête.
* * *
Ella: When did you first get a computer?
Me: I think I was about 12 or 13.
Ella: Oh, so about the same time most kids get their own cell phones now. (I spared her the embarrassment of correcting her. Most kids are way younger that that.) What did you do on it?
Me: Mostly video games, some word processing. We did other things. You know, played outside? Games...
Ella: (clearly seeing where I was going with this, but ignoring my trolls): What about the internet? You know, the World...Wide...Web? (Sassy smile.)
Me: I don't remember getting on the internet till I was almost done with college. Around the mid-nineties.
Ella's eyes widen, her mouth gapes to the size of an orange.
Me: We did have email in my second year in college, I think, but we were given an ID number and an email address that we could only use on school computers. It was so cool to be able to email someone a message, like, "Hey! Wanna have lunch?"
Ella (Unable to hide her condescension. Or maybe it was pity.): Wait. Wait a minute. You didn't...you didn't have internet on your computer at home?
Me: Nope. The first time I got on the internet I was about 20 or 21, maybe. Jodi (my sister) had a computer, so I went on at her house. And I remember looking up physical therapy stuff, being fascinated at all the information I could access. The connection was slow, though. It was dial-up.
Me (At this point, feeling like a nursing home resident recounting watching Howdy Doody for the first time on the old Zenith): You had to connect to the...what do you call it, the server? You connected through a phone line and had to wait like a minute, sometimes longer, to get online. It made a funny sound. (I imitate the sound of dial-up. Ella looks like she just inhaled a gallon of lemon juice.)
Ella: How did...how...how did you do your assignments? Research?
Me: I went to the library.
Ella (clearly amused by my nostalgia): And...did what? Look in—
Me: Yup, books.
(Ella completely...not kidding here...incredulous.)
Ella: I don't know if I could...even...do that. I mean, that would make me so uncomfortable. How did you...find the books you needed?
Me: I guess in a catalog or something, don't quite remember.
Ella (like seeing a sunrise for the first time): Oh. My. God. So you had to, like, find information in books! Okay. How did you talk to your friends?
Me (laughing): Face to face. Or we called them on the home phone.
Ella: What about your friends from out of town? Did you, like, have to...SEND LETTERS???!!
Ella (Basically falling over): But that could take like 6 days, and by then the information wasn't even relevant anymore!
Me: (Don't want to correct her on her naive overestimation of Canada Post's efficiency so I just remain embarrassingly silent.)
Ella: How did you talk to your friends if they weren't home?
Me: We called their house and left them a message.
Ella: (Mouth hanging like a spring had snapped)
Me (ready for impending awe): On their answering machine, I guess.
Ella: (Predictably, speechless. The, after she has semi-recovered): I'm curious. How did you find airplane tickets?
Me: We called the airline, I guess, and bought them over the phone.
Ella: You did WHAT??!!
Me (awkwardly buoyed by my own rapidly progressing senescence): Yeah, and they actually sent you a ticket in the mail!
Ella: I like having my boarding pass on my phone.
* * *
Ella exits the hot tub and wraps herself in a towel, face framing the same electric smile I've adored since she was only a few months old. She goes inside and immediately picks up her phone, no doubt checking the dozens (hundreds?) of Snaps and texts and other vitally important data she has received in the 20 minutes we were outside.
Her mind is surely still reeling from the bombshells I've dropped. Yet before she tumbles down that unstoppable cataract of connectivity into the roiling eddy of iPhone-induced dopamine, she slides open the kitchen window and waves at me, eyes now open to the archaic past of her 43-year-old dad.
Ella's evanescent soul shines countless wavelengths brighter than any blue screen ever will. And because of that, I'm certain that our connection will forever stay a half-step ahead of technology.