our village (56)

May 2036

Dear Sara,

I was with my nephew today. You’d love this kid, I think. I guess I say that because I can’t see how anybody wouldn’t love this kid. He’s got fat cheeks and a toothy grin, and he’s so damn earnest it makes me want to cry. He says things like, “Uncle Roger, do you think kids are smarter now than they were when you were a kid?”

I never had kids of my own, Sara. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because you didn’t have kids. It’s not a secret to say that I looked up to you—I loved you, yes, but I also looked up to you, and that’s different. I respected your decision not to have children, trusted it, and probably adopted that decision for myself without thinking through it the way I trusted that you had thought through it. Now I’m 40, and maybe it’s too late for me to think about kids, although I can’t help but think about it a little bit when I hang out with Justin. He’s got an old man’s temperament, which suits me well; the two of us get along just fine, as he’s still too young to be caught up in too many of the entrapments of the modern age that I don’t particularly keep up with, yet he acts old enough for us to have conversations, like about whether or not today’s kids are smarter than we were when you and I were kids.

I wonder what you would say to a kid like Justin.

I told him it’s not a matter of smarter or stupider. I even told him—just to see if it made any sense to him—that I didn’t think it was a matter of more or less informed, or more or less ignorant. He asked me what “ignorant” meant—you gotta love a kid who asks questions, and that’s something I could have told him I thought was way too rare these days—and the concept of ignorance didn’t make immediate sense to him, given our access to limitless information, so I had to talk about it another way. So there we were, me and my 7-year old nephew, talking about common sense. And when I realized I was talking too much, and asked him if he knew what I was talking about, he said they had time at school every day when they let their personal devices “take a nap”—that’s what he said, so I guess it must be what the teachers say—and that was kind of like practicing common sense. I’m sure they don’t let the Eye take a nap, but I won’t bore you by getting on my soapbox, and I didn’t bring it up with Justin, either.

Oh my little Justin. If he could have seen the way kids played in our village, unplugged, untethered, untamed. I wanted to take the little boy back in time and wake him up out of a dreaming boy’s sleep in the middle of a moonless night for a walk around the lake to see what magic he could find in the real world. Imagine what we could have shared with a kid like Justin. That certainly would have changed things, Sara.

With love and with some regret,

Roger

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