My son left the country a few weeks ago. Armed with a passport, work visa and years of pent-up wanderlust, he flew off to New Zealand on an eight-month adventure. I envy him his freedom and I'm happy he has the opportunity, but I miss his frequent visits to the house. I long for one of his bear hugs and signature greeting: "Hello-o-o, mother dearest! What's the dinner plan?"
Eight months seems like an eternity, twice as long as he's ever been away before. The winter seems colder without my boy's energy. My husband feels it, too. I won't say we're counting the days until he returns. (How pathetic would THAT be?) But we've got Aug. 28 circled in red on the calendar, which is 30 whole weeks away. (But who's counting?)
Our son took only the possessions he could carry in two backpacks, leaving behind his old Jeep, his new bed and his most-prized possession, the "awesome" Nintendo Wii.
His sister promptly commandeered the Jeep. A new roommate is subleasing the bed. And his father and I inherited - albeit temporarily - an addictive little game called Wii Sports.
For those of you living on Planet Oblivius, the Wii is a video game console featuring hand-held controllers that mimic the real-life actions of swinging a tennis racket or golf club, throwing a bowling ball down an alley or connecting with a right hook. This brilliant get-off-your-butt technology has convinced thousands of overindulging, rationalizing parents (including yours truly) to purchase the game console for their kids, thinking, "They may become zombies but, at least, they'll be zombies that MOVE!"
The movement factor appealed to my husband and me, too. Here's something we can do in the dead of January, we reasoned, without leaving the warmth of our living room, that doesn't cost anything and will get the blood pumping a bit. For me, it meant a few more calories burned from my daily tally. For him, well, it beat the heck out of watching "Project Runway."
The Wii remained out of sight-out-of-mind in our living room hutch until this week when, faced with "Runway" reruns or yet another episode of "House Hunters," we decided to give it a whirl.
After connecting the cords in all the right places, the first thing we did was select our respective Miis. The 'Mii' is a digital avatar - a Wii alter ego, if you will. He or she represents you in the sport of your choice. There are dozens of ready-made Miis to choose from, or you can create a customized Mii to look just like you. Or me.
With Dr. Frankenstein-like glee, I created my Mii from scratch with blond hair, pink skin, blue eyes, button nose, square-ish spectacles, stylish black clothing and no facial hair. (I could have opted for the goatee but decided on a premenopausal Mii.)
"And she shall be called Muffykins!" I declared.
Next, my husband fashioned a Mii in his own likeness. It was eerily accurate (save for the hipper, spiky haircut), and he christened it "Tex."
Then, it was game on.
Within seconds, we were in a virtual bowling alley, throwing strikes and spares. ("Nice spare!" the Wii cheers.) In the adjacent lanes, and in the peanut gallery, colorful little Mii people with no legs floated and bobbed around. I swear they were clapping on cue. The experience was so lifelike, the only thing missing was a pitcher of beer. And for the first time in my life, I was keeping pace with my husband on the scoreboard. Wii: the great equalizer!!
"Hey, this is fun!" I said. "Let's play something else!"
We switched over to golf and, instantly, we were looking at the No. 1 hole on a spectacular course by the sea. My drive sailed down the fairway as the sun flared in the sky.
"Who needs Pebble Beach?" I swooned. "This is incredible!"
Next, we tried tennis and got revved up as our two Miis scrambled across the court. Forehand, backhand, lobs and slams. Muffykins and Tex were burning it up!
"When did you say the Kiwi kid was coming home?" my husband asked in the midst of a wicked volley.
"30 weeks. 30 whole weeks!" I answered, merrily.
"Awesome!" he huffed. "Let's try baseball!"