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Elizabeth Cook: How will we explain VCRs?

“There’s a baby in my house.”

My family laughed when I blurted that out Friday night. Our  4-month-old grandson, Jack, had come to visit for the first time.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a baby in the house — decades.

His parents made the trip from Rocky Mount, too, by the way.

Remember that phase, when everyone dotes on the baby and the parents become invisible? Until the baby gets fussy, that is.

Everyone predicted that having a grandchild would open a new world of wonder, but they really undersold it. Watching little Jack grow up puts the world into new perspective. Forward momentum has returned.

Let’s just say keeping the environment clean and our country at peace means even more now that we have a family member destined for the high school class of 2035.

Suddenly the future is more concrete and less abstract.

Babies are great icebreakers. I had forgotten that. No one walks up to you and says, “My, what an adorable teenager you have there. Can she drive yet?”

Having baby Jack along on OctoberTour was a plus. Babies have a way of putting smiles on the faces of people you don’t even know. If you do know them, all the better. It’s homecoming time.

Speaking of which, Saturday was a big day in Salisbury-Rowan — Catawba College homecoming, Historic Salisbury Foundation’s OctoberTour, Piedmont Players’ “In God’s Own Country,” the Food Lion 6K, the Kruger Brothers  at Lee Street Theatre, the Granite Quarry Fiddlers Convention, at least one class reunion and much, much more.

Don’t forget the Fin, Feather and Fur Outdoor & Off-Road Expo at the Fairgrounds.

Downtown parking spaces were at a premium in the evening and probably throughout the day.

Somewhere along the way someone commented on opening a business here and said, “Salisbury has a lot going for it.”

Indeed it does.

When we moved here in 1977, the thing that told me this was a community I might like to live in was the presence of a Wendy’s. Talk about unsophisticated tastes.

Then again, seeing a familiar, popular chain might make visitors and newcomers feel more at home. It’s something they can identify with. The presence of Starbucks and Panera could be today’s reassuring sign for newcomers, proof that the city has the population and discretionary income — and visitors off the interstate — to attract that kind of investment.

Now, if we could just get a Target.

Things have changed a lot here — and everywhere — over the past 40 years.

We got our first microwave oven when Jack’s mom was just a couple of years old. The VCR was the latest thing, and we were frequent customers at the video store. Boy, was that a short-lived industry.

Jokes about toddlers feeding foreign objects into the VCR will seem odd to kids who grow up in the age of Netflix and Amazon Prime.

To do research for editorials in the 1980s, I pulled out the encyclopedia — a term now mysterious to the primary school set — or went to the library.

Now we have the internet and Google, but in the long run they may not save  that much time. A Google search that finds the answer to one question can easily lead to several more questions. It’s so easy to keep searching. Just one more click. And another. Down the rabbit hole we go. An hour can go by before you know it.

And what about phones? Jack will think we lived in the Dark Ages when we tell him we used phones with handsets and cords — phones that we dialed literally, not figuratively, and could not carry around.

When our girls were growing up, they visited grandparents in Virgina and eastern North Carolina every few months, and occasionally we sent photos. The once-a-year school photos were especially prized.

Now new images of our growing grandson pop up on our computer screens daily, and we’ll eventually warm up to Facetime.

Imagine what kind of changes the next 40 years might bring. Driverless cars could be common by then, or even passé. Netflix will be the dinosaur that preceded what? Buying a service to project images to your brain? Virtual reality without the weird headsets?

Will we be beaming each other up by then?

Let’s take it one day at a time and see what develops.  There’s plenty of work to do in the here and now. And plenty of fun, too.

As I said, there’s a baby in the house.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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