IPad is uncle’s new best friend.


Neva has a brand new little brother. And she just loves him. Oren is less than two weeks old, no longer as wrinkled as a raisin, but not yet as smooth as an ironed shirt, either. Neva thinks that Oren is terrific. She rocks his little car seat cradle thingy when he fusses and squirms. She calls for mom when she thinks Oren needs a snack. She announces to everyone, in clear, forceful tones, when Oren is pooping. “Hey everyone! Oren is pooping!”


One evening, when all the uncles and aunts show up with dinner, to spot mom and dad bit, Neva has more to do. After she shows off Oren and rocks him a bit, Neva is ready to be entertained. Uncle Jeremy is the favorite, hands down. Neva just calls him J. And Neva, all four years old of her, is ready to mix it up with J.


Neva and J kid around a bit, then get to it, when, magically, an IPad appears. J pulls up the piano keyboard app, and Neva bangs the virtual ivories with spirit, if not innate talent. Of course, J shows her how to slide the volume up to full blast. Now everyone can hear Neva pounding the keyboard. Not just everyone in the house, but everyone in the neighborhood.


“What else does it do?” Neva asks J as she hands him the IPad, flat as a tray waiting to be loaded with goodies. J provides the goodies.


“Look, it has a clinometer,” says J as he buttons to that app. Neva cranks the IPad like the steering wheel on a bus to see the needle stay plumb and watch the numbers run up and down the scale. J says, “Now lay it flat.” The bubble level pops onto the screen like a liquid emerald. Neva gives J The Look: “What does it mean?” she asks with that silent glance. “So, now we know that the kitchen table is not really level,” J calls out in the general direction of Neva’s father, who mutters something about having to add leveling the table to the to-do list.


Neva wants to know what else it does. This time she surrounds the IPad with her twiggy little arms. She’s not giving it up, not to J, and that means not to anybody.


J reaches taps into the page dappled with a pallet of app icons. He points through each one and explains what it does. He saves the chalkboard app for last, then says, “Watch this.” J invokes the chalkboard, and Neva is on it like a cat on a yarn ball. She figures out pretty quickly to select different colors of chalk, and scrawls around like a doodlebug. When Neva discovers that she can use all her fingers at once to make ten chalk lines in parallel, she becomes hard at work.


J shows her how to use the eraser, getting Neva to clear a little space, then the whole screen. Then he writes Neva, big and legible, in pink chalk, right in the geographic centers the screen. He hands the IPad to Neva and says, “Now you write, right over the letters that I wrote.”


Suddenly, Neva can spell and write her own name. Her parents take notice. Neva and J take turns writing over each other’s words, spelling out the names of everyone present. Neva is decidedly and deservedly proud of herself. She can write and spell everyone’s names. This is all going so well. Her parents have a mixed look of wonder and pride, but J? He has a different look, the seed of a smile underneath sprouting devil horns. J is about to show Neva another feature on the chalkboard. The one everyone dreads about a real chalkboard, which, by the way, young Neva has never seen. But whoever wrote this app has. Because he or she has programmed in—you got it—a little icon that looks just like…fingernails. Complete with sound effects. Neva beams as she rakes her fingernails down the chalkboard, and everybody squirms.

Young Neva trots the IPad over to show it to even younger Oren. He smiles as only a two-week-old can do.


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