Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Cannon: How do you compete against ‘Angry Birds’?

By ann Cannon

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Mar 15 2013 03:20 pm • Last Updated Mar 15 2013 06:24 pm

My maternal grandfather (known to one and all as "Skinny") was a mechanic who owned a garage and service station in a small Wyoming town. It was the kind of place where people gathered to exchange information about hunting and fishing, the weather (which was mostly bad), the state of the country and the state of the state and (of course) each other.

One of the regulars was a man who rarely saw a sober moment. All of his meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner — came straight out of a bottle. The man told my grandfather that he drank to forget.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

He was a veteran of World War I, this man. On one occasion when his unit was rushed by the enemy, he ran a German soldier through with a bayonet. The soldier’s head flopped back and his helmet fell off, revealing the surprised face of a young teenager with bright yellow hair.

"He was just a boy, Skinny," the man said over and over. "Just a boy. And I killed him."

Each night that vet was greeted by the boy’s ghost who sat on the foot of the bed, a look of eternal surprise on his ageless face.

I heard my grandfather tell this story more than once. At the dinner table. On road trips. In his study crammed with books and photos, as well as the polished rocks and arrowheads he’d collected since he was a kid.

And the reason I heard my grandfather tell this story is that I didn’t have a choice, frankly. I didn’t own an iPad. An iPod. A Nintendo DS. A smartphone. A dumb phone. My ways of escape were limited. The only available option was to tune out, which I did sometimes. I’ll admit it.

Before the proliferation of Technologies that Divert (see above list), being able to "tune out" was a useful skill. It saved you from mind-numbing boredom — the kind you regularly experienced in class or at church or during long drives across the Nevada desert or anyplace where you were part of a captive audience. Tuning out allowed you to do a little daydreaming — imagining what you’d say to the Academy, for instance, if you ever won an Oscar. That sort of thing.

So yeah. I totally knew how to tune out. But more often than not when my grandfather and the other adults in our family started telling stories, we kids hovered around the edges of their conversations — eager to hear old gossip, to glean information and opinions about a range of subjects. Politics. Sports. Religion. TV. Movies. Current events and old scandals.

Which brings me to this question: Do kids sit around and listen to family stories anymore?

story continues below
story continues below

Or are they too busy playing "Angry Birds" on their parents’ smartphones? Or their own smartphones?

OK. This is not an anti-technology screed. What would be the point? Technology isn’t going away. And yes. A lot of things are much, much better now than they used to be. I personally LOVE not having to walk a million miles when my car breaks down in the middle of the night in the middle of (see above) the Nevada desert.

Thank you, cellphones!

It’s just that I wonder how today’s children access family stories now — something I think is crucial. Family stories provide us with ways of understanding who we are, why we do the things we do, what we value.

Take the story about my paternal grandmother who told her husband she didn’t care where they lived ... as long as they lived by a school. My grandmother wanted her children to have the kind of education that she herself never had. See what I mean about understanding where our values come from?

So tell me: How do families share those kinds of stories in a wired age when kids no longer camp around the edges of adult conversation, waiting to hear?

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com or facebook.com/anncannontrib.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.