One of the best presents I received this Christmas was the Kodak folding camera that belonged to my great aunt. It now holds a place of honor on my desk next to the Remington Noiseless Portable I received from my grandfather’s cousin. On the other side of my desk, in stark contrast, sit my MacBook Pro and iPhone.
The typewriter has long been a great conversation piece, and I often look at it and think how grateful I am for today’s technological tools that make communication so easy. But consideration of the camera’s provenance really caused me to pause and appreciate my lot in life.
Lily Mae (“Mae”) Seal, the camera’s owner and my father’s aunt, was born in 1898 in Mississippi. She never married, and as the eldest of seven children, she served as housekeeper and caretaker for her father in Sicily Island, Louisiana. She was a lifelong teacher and librarian, and she loved to travel, especially with my father’s family with and some combination of eight kids in their station wagon.
Tucked in the side of the camera is a photo of Mae sitting daintily in a woodpile. She looks to be thirty-something. Sicily Island at that time, my father describes, was a frontier-like town on the edge of a swamp, with dirt streets, board sidewalks, and ruffians mingling with upright citizens.
Looking at this photo and the Kodak, snapping a crystal clear image of it with my phone and posting it to this blog, I am abundantly aware of the opportunities that today’s technology afford entrepreneurs like me, especially women.
I wonder, what would Mae have been in today’s world: a photographer, a travel writer, an academic, a caregiving expert/blogger offering advice and resources? Would I be commenting on her Instagram feed as she traveled the world? I think of the many powerful women on both sides in my family tree. How would their lives have been different if they had access to the technology I do? Would it have helped them follow their passions?
So as 2013 goes full steam ahead, I will make a conscious effort to look up from my laptop, ponder the Kodak, offer a nod of respect to the strong women in my family, and give thanks—for typewriters and Kodaks, for email and Instagram, and for frontiers of all kinds.