Spending time in my mother-in-law’s kitchen on a summer morning in Maine combined my love of baking with the beautiful backdrop of storytelling. I pulled plump chocolate chip cookies from the oven, transferring them to wax paper.

“You know, dear, that cookie sheet was my grandmother’s.” A quick calculation made the cookie sheet at least 160 years old, along with the intricately engraved metal spatula.

I was struck with the beauty of the amount of memory in a cookie sheet in contrast to the amount of memory in my son’s new computer.

I leaned against the counter listening to stories about her “Babu” (Polish grandmother), who sewed without patterns, never washed dish towels with clothing and forbade her daughter from going to college. “You must marry or work, but never college!”

I was trying to “unplug” while on holiday and was honored to have an even better connection through storytelling. My mother-in-law’s home is lovely to visit for many reasons, one being she has everything one needs, from a 9×9 pan to a lost hair elastic to the Sunday New York Times. But what she didn’t have at her fingertips was the password to her Wi-Fi, which, too, was just what I needed.

We finished our baking in time to join my husband heading out to pick up the salmon for the family get-together. All of us were a little new to the Portland area, but we were reassured by the calming and directive voice of our rental car’s GPS.

Plugging back in to technology for the moment seemed like it might be helpful — until it wasn’t. An hour later we were all wilting still in search of Bayley’s Lobster Pound.

Finally I announced, “I think it is time to do it the old way!” as we pulled in to a gas station and just asked the man behind the counter. “Just stay straight on Route 9 and on to Jones Creek Road, can’t miss it!”

When we stopped to refuel at a nearby Starbucks, five out of seven people in line were staring at their iPhone screen and most of their computers. I did notice a young couple in the corner sipping their frozen drinks and actually talking with one another.

As a clinical psychologist, I find that the changes in communication or lack of communication continue to fascinate me. And for this week, I am in need of staying connected to family the old-fashioned way, without technology changing the recipe.

Since my husband’s family was just the first stop on our East Coast journey, I did have to hug his mother goodbye all too soon. She smiled as her hearing aid rang as I pulled her close. “It always does that when someone hugs me!”

Like the GPS that “dings” when you make the correct turn, I was reminded that being close, sharing memories and putting technology aside is the correct turn on a holiday. And perhaps it might be a good choice more often in our everyday lives.

Priscilla Dann-Courtney (email: [email protected]) of Boulder, Colo., is a clinical psychologist and writer.


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