After Kathy’s children grew up, moved away, and began lives outside their hometown, she missed the day-to-day togetherness that kept their ties so strong. Here’s how Marco Polo helped Kathy re-create one of the special rituals she shared with the younger generation and in the process, build new and lasting bonds.
Once upon a time, my whole family lived in the same town. My eight kids and I saw each other all the time, and my grandchildren came over often for visits and sleepovers. We even started a family book group. And when the little ones felt left out, I started a story club just for them. Story Time, Nana’s Book Club – the name changed but the fun was always the same. I was in heaven.
Over the years, lives shifted, families grew, and people moved away. It wasn’t easy for any of us. One of my sons-in-law told me that as soon as they pulled out of the driveway, he made up his mind that the phone bills would just have to be huge. This was back before cell phones, so yeah, there were some BIG long-distance charges.
We tried different ways to ensure the younger generation grew up knowing me, but nothing was ideal. Sometimes the kids would call and hand the phone to a two-year-old. That was so much fun, but it’s a little hard to have an extended conversation with a toddler! For a while, my grandkids and I had a letter writing club. I gave them kits with paper, envelopes, and stamps, and we’d start a chain. By the time it came full circle, I’d have six or seven letters, which was wonderful for me but a lot of work for the children. It fizzled out eventually.
At the end of one visit, when a granddaughter was crying inconsolably because I was leaving (honestly, we all bawl when it’s time to leave) I suggested that my daughter put Marco Polo on her phone. I’d already been using it to make long-distance caregiving arrangements for another relative and knew how easy it was to use. I said, “After you leave, I’ll record a Polo from the departure gate. She can watch it on your drive home.”
It couldn’t have worked better. My granddaughter’s tears dried up, my daughter fell in love with the app, and before I knew it, the whole family was on Marco Polo. It became by far the most successful thing we’d used to keep in touch.
Someone finally suggested the idea of using Marco Polo to re-create Nana’s Book Club. I’d record a story for any available kids to watch then and there; if they were out or napping, the story was waiting for them later. It was a total hit, and it allowed me to form real bonds that I might not have otherwise. The kids find it delightful to dress up their Polos with funny voices and little hearts, and they make frequent book requests – “I want the pigeon book!” or “Read us The Day the Sun Slept In!” I’m always at the library replenishing my collection.
As the older children outgrow story time, the younger ones have started participating. The latest is my two-year-old great grandson, who lives close to Seattle. Even though I’m not with him often, he knows and remembers me. He can look at the phone and say “Nana, I love you.”
Marco Polo is so much more meaningful than the occasional letter or card. It creates that frequent contact you need to grow precious relationships, even from far away. The whole purpose of life is family, and this app is helping my family stay strong.