I have lived in Oregon for 15 years now, leaving behind, in New Jersey, lots of relatives: two sisters- in-law, their eight children, all married with three or four kids per family. Those "kids" are now middle-aged with grown children of their own, now finding mates. One would think that as they multiply the tie that binds me to them would have stretched and weakened with time and distance.
But we live in a wired age. Most of them are on Facebook and have "friended" me, so I follow their doings.
I think of Facebook as a virtual stage and of the people who "post" every day as wannabe actors, folks eager to be lifted out of the anonymity of our times. They tell you what they're eating, or show you their garden, or fire off political opinions, secure in the knowledge that their postings are no more pedestrian than the next person's. It seems they thrive on the responses they get from their friends, usually "awesome" or "love it."
So I'm a Facebook cynic, but I still like to follow what other people put out there, if only to snort at it.
My family's postings are the same but I get to see how they age and I "oooh" at their babies. There's a comfort to it, a continuity.
Among them is a niece, Shari, a yoga teacher.
"Shari takes after you, she's arty," her mother tells me, arty being a descriptive that sounds like a disease when it comes from my sister-in-law. What she means is Shari believes in things her mother doesn't understand, like Buddhism.
Shari took a trip to India recently. She posted daily photos of Indian life on her Facebook page. She is very blond with pale skin, and she posted photos of herself with dark-skinned Indian children who wanted to have their pictures taken with her. In the caption, she explained: "What kid wouldn't want to have their picture taken with an alien space creature?"
And after two weeks of it — the travel, the art, the crowded streets, the ashram, she was on the way home, changing planes in Belgium for her flight back to New York. Her plane touched down in Brussels minutes before the bombs went off inside the airport and, unexpectedly, we were into another adventure, all of it wired back to her followers on Facebook.
At first, the captain explained there was a "security issue" and no one was allowed off the plane. Next post: Passengers were told to pick up only their wallets and passports and leave everything else on the plane. They were ushered out to the tarmac where they stood in the cold with other planeloads of just arrived passengers. One had to fill in the picture, for on Facebook there was no more than one sentence to go by. Shari was afraid of her cell phone running out of juice.
On TV we heard that all flights in and out of Belgium had been either cancelled or rerouted to other countries.
The next posting informed us that they were moving from the tarmac into an airplane hanger. It was amazing, being wired into a real-time tragedy.
Next post: They would be put on busses and taken to a stadium. Were all the hotels in the area filled? It wasn't explained.
I watched the TV coverage of the bombing in Belgium with particular interest. I think I even saw her in a short crowd scene of exhausted-looking people walking somewhere.
Next post: photos of the stadium. Large tables with food set up and lots of litter. It reminded me of that stadium during Katrina, but cleaner.
Next there was a photo of a Belgian family, a couple with two children. "These sweet people," she wrote, "offered to take me in."
They provided her with not only a shower, but also teddy-bear pajamas, a bed and a delicious breakfast next morning. They received a slew of thank-yous from the U.S. and have become part of our world, even mine out here in Oregon. I "liked" them. They are probably now wired into my Facebook page.
Meanwhile Shari visited the stadium again to find her luggage and search for a way to leave Brussels. Next post, she was on a bus to Holland. Her comment: "… so grateful for life, and so sad for the people here."
When you are wired, a few words say all that needs to be said.
I'm no longer a Facebook cynic. It provided a lot of peace to we who love Shari and it was amazing to be part of her adventure here in my safe nest in Oregon. I'm sure there is so much more out there that I could be a part of, if I only knew how to reach it.
Talent resident Dorothy Vogel is the author of "The Timber Mill Action," a mystery set in southern Oregon and available on Amazon.com.