Friday, September 11, 2009

The Future is Now

This morning our son started Sixth Form College. In the United Kingdom, secondary school finishes at age 16 with GCSE exams in Year 11. Years 12 and 13 are referred to as Sixth Form. Because not everyone attends sixth form (you have to get good marks in your GCSE exams in order to be able to do so), young people of our son’s age are considered virtually adults in British society.

I always take a photo on the first day of school, and I fail to see why the first day of college should be any different so I took a photo as our son left the house with my husband this morning. (I’d post it here, but I can hear the “oh mum...” already!) I have old photos of my son with me, my husband, and in a couple cases, my Dad, when my parents visited us from Canada in Septembers long ago - one for each first day of school. As I stood there this morning, taking the photograph, the memories of those days long gone tugged me backwards into the past - back to all those first days. Were they really so long ago? But then the real events of the morning pulled me sharply forwards into the now, as we laughed and joked as they left the house.

Later, I called my husband just to make sure all was well. He was talking to his dad and his sister at the time (about how his mum is getting on - she had an operation yesterday) and he patched my call into theirs, so the four of us were chatting. Then our son rang my husband, and he patched him into our call as well. So it was me at home, my husband on the train heading for Paddington, our son at Twyford, and my in-laws in Kent, all of us on iPhones, talking to each other almost as if we were in the same room. It was like something out of The Jetson’s, a cartoon about life in the future I used to watch when I was a kid. I used to imagine what the future would be like back then, and now I’m living it. I carry a phone in my handbag that play music and video, holds my contacts and calendar, takes pictures and allows me to have conference calls, amongst a myriad of other things. Video calls are an everyday reality, both on mobile phones and computers. Not so long ago, the phone alone was really big and heavy, conference calls required the help of an operator, and our son was a baby.

Today all that has changed. It’s a very different world from the one our son was born into, and of course he is different too. So am I, and so is everything. We live in a different place, we have a different life - my parents are gone, and so are the cats who brushed round our son’s ankles as I took the first “first day of school” picture so long ago. Everything moves on, everything changes. Some of it, like watching our son grow up and moving forward with our lives, has been wonderful. We’ve had some great adventures. Some of it has been heartbreaking. But none of that matters now. All that matters now is this moment - and the future to come.

In the words of the song written by Neil Diamond, Tom Hensley and Alan Lindgren when I was about the age my son is today - “C’mon, c’mon...we’re going to build a new dream....We’re heading for the future, and the future is now.”

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