Last night my daughter practiced her oboe before I’d even begun the normal begging and bribing. I was upstairs folding laundry when I heard her say, “One, two, three….go!” and the duck-like tones of ‘Merrily We Roll Along’  came wafting up the stairs. Stunned at this unlikely turn of events, and curious who she was talking to, I hurried down to her bedroom door to peek in.

What I saw was that my sixth-grader had the home phone turned on and upright on her music stand, which was placed in concert formation at the foot of her bed.  Her stuffed animals sat atop her duvet in precise rows, every unblinking eye attuned to this sudden, shock performance. Unaware of my presence, Annalise blew into the oboe with gusto, while whistly peeps burst out of the phone receiver on the stand. When the song was done Annalise and her friend Katlyn said in unison, “Thank you, Thank you very much!” in grand tones. Then Katlyn said over the phone, “What’s next?” and Annalise and her friend way down in California began playing ‘The Whole World In His Hands’ over the phone together. I almost clapped out loud, but then restrained myself.

I hurried back upstairs, marveling at their ingenuity. Those two girls played through all the beginning band songs together for about half and hour while Annalise laughed and enjoyed her instrument for perhaps the first time, ever.

Upstairs I listened and wondered about my coverage plan, how many free minutes were allowed on that phone, even while I continued stacking clean underwear. I quickly came to the conclusion, “Who cares how many minutes there are? Her enthusiasm is worth every penny!”

In the future Annalise might tell her own kids how she used to practice the oboe over the phone with her friend in California. Her children will undoubtedly think that sounds dull and clunky and old-fashioned, because they will have motion-sensored video recorders in each of their moveable walls that allow them to make music together visually as well as audibly.

But our home is not equipped to do that yet. We still rely on the telephone. And I still marvel at the fact that Annalise and Katlyn can play with each other so easily, even though physically they are so far apart. It seems the whole world is in our hands these days.

Scientists want to capitalize on this newfound ability to play while far away. In Milwaukee, zoo keepers have discovered how happy orangutans are to play each day on an Ipad. Apparently the sounds and sights stimulate the orangutans, relieve their boredom, and allow them to immerse themselves in games and YouTube videos as obsessively as humans do.

Now that these orangutans have connected to the internet so successfully, zoo keepers are looking into ways to connect orangutans in zoos throughout the world with one another. “One of our goals is to be able to have the orangutans interact and communicate amongst themselves … essentially being able to go online and see who else is online … and contacting them to be able to ‘play,'” he said. “We’ve been calling it ‘Primate Playdate.'” And the hope isn’t just that orangutans will go online to play video games with each other, from zoo to zoo, Zimmerman thinks it’s possible that zoo visitors could download the same apps and play with and against the primates with their own iPhones and iPads.

 A Facebook for orangutans seems crazy, but so is the thought of two girls practicing their band instruments together while 1500 miles apart. Play away, I say! Enthusiasm is what keeps us learning, whether we’re caged in schools or houses or even the zoo.

And who knows, maybe there’s already a ‘Housewives, Hello’ app, which connects women world-wide as they fight the filth. I mean, somewhere in Tanzania or Kalamazoo there must be a woman who wants to virtually fold undies with me, right?  

Game on!