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When technology becomes part of the family it's back to the future

A new gadget makes like easier while bringing memories of a simpler time
This robotic vacuum makes life easier, but also brings memories of a simpler time
Published Jan. 17

It's Saturday morning, and I find myself living a part of my husband's childhood, lounging on the sofa as Stephen swirls around me, vacuuming up yesterday's crumbs.

I'm enthralled, as are others in my household.

"Stephen wanted to come in my bedroom," my twenty-something daughter announced. "He kept banging on the door. So I let him in."

Neither parent batted an eye.

"Let him venture where he wants," I figure, as long as I don't have to do the dirty work.

Her dad was otherwise engaged — on the phone sounding like an infomercial.

"It's amazing!" he was saying of the dirt and dust bunnies Stephen had been snatching up since his Christmas arrival.

Really, who knew our floors were so filthy?

Turns out, our new Chinese robotic vacuum does.

After initially resisting overtures from our millennial offspring, my husband finally bought into the technology.

It's a bit of a leap for a guy who still carries a a flip phone and who just months ago, pulled the plug on the Amazon Alexa a nephew gifted us when she started butting in on Jeopardy.

"I'll take English literature for $200, Alex," was all a contestant had to say, and she'd be running her mouth.

Okay, I have to admit that was a little unnerving.

But now we're keeping up with the Jones' — or the kids — who have their own vacuum robots.

And, perhaps, with our baby boomer expectations.

After all, this is what the futuristic, animated '60s sitcom The Jetsons promised, along with flying cars and planetary travel.

As with the Jetsons' robot "Rosie," ours has a name, as required by the registration ap the kids downloaded on my smartphone.

We opted for "Stephen" before we realized our robot speaks with a feminine voice.

What's with that?

We like to think of ourselves as open-minded folk, so "Stephen" is sticking.

In a short time, he's become part of the family.

Like the kid living in Michigan, he messages me daily. He lets me know when he's starting and completing his routine. If he gets hung up, or swallows a sock, he asks for help. And if I make a mess, I can count on him to spot clean.

What a guy.

Stephen doesn't whistle while he works, but he can be a tad noisy. I pay no mind. Turn up the volume on the television remote. Brush the crumbs off the couch.

Resume the position.

Which brings me back to my husband's wonder years.

Picture a kid, donned in cowboy pj's watching Saturday morning cartoons, slurping down cereal laden with sugary milk.

"Lift your feet," was the only command he heard from the woman who would vacuum around him and make his bed for years to come.

That pretty much stopped when we set up house.

While Stephen brings fond memories of a simpler time for my husband, this is a new experience for me.

My Saturday mornings were spent in familial servitude.

It was chore day. That's what we told friends who came calling, getting pitiful looks as they headed off on their bicycles and we commenced with the vacuuming, dusting, ironing, raking or washing of windows with newspapers and a concoction of vinegar and water.

There was no sleeping in. No watching cartoons. No play time till you're done.

In hindsight, these were lessons in self-sufficiency, and we ended up better for it.

None of us would leave the nest without knowing how to work a washing machine, cook a meal or pick up after ourselves.

Those are lessons we passed on to our kids.

Now they are passing them back.

Suffice it to say, in this case, their way is better.

Welcome to the future.

Contact Michele Miller at mmiller@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6251. Follow @MicheleMiller52.

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