How funny to me, at the ripe old age of six and thirty, to be writing a lovesong to a cultural phenomenon I missed entirely when I was growing up. I was just old enough to be too old for Pokémon when it came out. I missed the cartoon, the trading card game, the Nintendo DS games. So when I heard about Pokémon Go, I was dismissive, but I downloaded it so I’d have something to do with the boyfriend. I liked how it got us outside, how it was both simple enough to play and yet challenging to catch all the characters.
And then something magical happened. My mother asked to download it. My sixty-five year old mother who has had two strokes and has difficulty walking further than around the house. Although she’s regained a lot of her mobility and can drive, she struggles to walk and it’s sometimes difficult to get her out of the house even to walk to the mailbox. Dad suggested I ride the bike around with her, while she rode her mobility scooter.
Once I explained the app, she took off down the driveway on her scooter, holding her phone in front of her. “I see one,” she shouted. I showed her how to toss a Pokéball to snag it. She took off down the road again. I figured she’d get to the end of the lane and come back, but she turned down the side street and kept going. I could barely keep up, pumping the pedals to catch her. She stopped for so long at one point that a neighbor yelled to check if we’re okay.
I was in heaven. The sun was setting and it was gorgeous outside, that perfect sticky of Kentucky midsummer. The crickets were buzzing, the smell of honeysuckle was in the air. And my mom was smiling, laughing…outside. I circled back around on my bike, helped her track down a particularly tough one. She used an incense to draw them to her and managed to catch /nine/ Pokémon in all just by circling the block.
At the end, she was exhausted, I was exhausted, my t-shirt was stuck to my back and I was covered in bug bites, but I was walking up the driveway grinning like a fool and she earned a medal. So Pokémon Go, I was wrong about you. I know you’re not a perfect app, but in this moment, you were perfect for me. For mom. For us.