by Howard Seemann
IT BEGAN LAST JANUARY WHEN OUR SON LUKE began posting on the Internet what he has called "the usual themes of my generation: loss, longing, snobbery and cynicism." He had dropped out of college for a year to work in Boulder, Colo.
He has created a personal Home Page, a collection of almost 100 essays by now. I prefer to call it "some insights into the mind and heart of my younger son." And I recommend it to parents as a way to understand and get closer to their children because it offers an opportunity, not for exchange, but to witness the revelation of what young people really think about, what's vitally important to them.
Perhaps someone someday, if a psychology graduate student hasn't already, will discover what it is about the World Wide Web, the most graphical of the Internet tools, that encourages people to reveal a part of their inner selves that they wouldn't dare to express if they sat across the table from you.
Here are some examples from his web page, titled "Fool ex Machina":
"Baseball is probably meaningful to me because of the people I've had the pleasure to watch it with. Watching a Brewers game with my grandfather on an old rusty television set. Driving 300 miles with Cicada [his brother Hank] and Mama and Papa Bears [that's us, his parents] to watch the A's lose to the Twins."
"Sometimes it's as if the entire period only lasts five minutes. Students shuffle in. Robin Williams gives an impassioned speech on Marlon Brando and Macbeth, bell rings, students shuffle out. It's as if all of Hollywood has conspired to forget that high school often consists of great periods of time -- 50 to 55 minutes in length -- in which absolutely nothing dramatic occurs."
"The thing is, it wasn't an incredible sunset! Oh, sure, it was worth the price of admission. But it quite literally paled in comparison to those I had seen earlier that week up north in Eureka. In Eureka a wide range of colors -- from orange to purple and back to orange again -- had done the tango across an entire sky of clouds. The upscale yokels in La Jolla were applauding a mere sliver of red across the horizon.
"Say what you will about small-town folk, at least we know a decent sunset when we see it."
"My oldest memory is preserved in an old black and white photo. My grandmother holds me as I cry with all my 5-year-old determination as Grandpa wryly smiles in the background. We are at a baseball game. My 9-year-old brother is on the field and I am in the stands throwing a tantrum because I am too young to play. ...
"Mostly though, I remember ... nothing. It's sitting on his porch, driving in his car, toting his golf clubs and simply enjoying his presence. It's watching him don reading glasses to shuck every last hair from that evening's corn on the cob. It's watching him silently weed his garden. It's savoring the best days of my life, a week in the summer at Grandma and Grandpa's."
Do I recommend that parents get an Internet account? It may not work for everyone. But it does work for us.
There's something about the anonymity of the Internet that gives us the freedom to reveal those inner thoughts we are too afraid to share when we are face to face. I'm grateful for this opportunity to get to know my children better. And someday, perhaps, the history books will record the era of the '90s as the time we as families were drawn closer -- ironically it happens at the same time we share our most personal thoughts with the whole world.
If only we had had something like this back in the '50s.
Luke graduated from Eureka High School in 1993. After two years at the University of Oregon, he will attend Northwestern University this fall. His dad has been a journalism professor at Humboldt State University since 1969 and copy editor for the Journal almost from the beginning.