It turned out that the girls were far more talkative via this video connection than by a regular phone call, although this certainly might be due to the novelty of the means, and of Grace's new toy, than just the fact that they could actually "connect" a little more authentically with face-to-face communication. Grace, to be honest, was a little greedy with her new discovery, and tried repeatedly to get away from Haley and Sophia in order to talk alone, but the other two kept tagging along, showing up just to peer at me or say Hi!, or to suggest some other topic of current interest for conversation. I'm sure Grace might share a bit more once the novelty wears off, although whether the other two will have the same amount of interest in talking to Uncle Mike – even with the magic of video – is up for grabs. That might be the power of novelty, too, I'm afraid. I certainly had to comment, though, on how such conversations were the stuff of science-fiction when I was her age. But it felt especially "live" for me to be carried around their familiar house, and to see them in that setting as we talked. They in turn certainly seemed interested in catching glimpses of my place, although I was particularly selective in what little I showed them as I still had laundry scattered around the apartment, drying where convenient, if not where attractive.
So I heard details of Grace's first gymnastics competition, which is coming up later this year; of them having a school holiday yesterday, and Jim taking the day off of work so that the whole family could go to an apple orchard and petting farm near DeKalb for the day (I'm guessing the Jonamac Orchard, by their description), with the girls tumbling over one another in describing to me the animals – goats, llamas, and such – and Grace getting pecked by a chicken she tried to pet, as well as stories of the apples having already all been picked in a rush, of corn mazes, and of a "jumping pillow." The presence of a desk in Grace and Haley's room received a little attention, as well as the virtual miracle story of them having helped Mom clean up the playroom the day before.
All in all, I was simply drunk on their willingness to share details, when the more recent tendency in phone conversations with them has been them growing more inattentive: after a five-and-a-half month absence, I was getting starved for contact with them, and this really helped. I had thought about dashing up there for my Fall Break this weekend, since it turned out that my schedule wasn't going to be locked down here, but it turned out that Grace and Haley would be away all weekend camping with Jim in the "Indian Princesses" father-and-daughters program they're part of, and so I wouldn't have been able to see them hardly at all. Not that Sophie, Leslie, and Mom aren't worth a trip in themselves, but Leslie told me to hold off for a better opportunity, which certainly makes sense. But like I said, this surprise technological connection made all the difference.