Your Digital Backroom

My Great Aunt Gena doing a Swan Dive off the Pedro Miguel Locks in Panama

My Great Aunt Gena performing a swan dive off the Pedro Miguel Locks. Panama, 1938

As a kid it was always cool when rummaging through a grandparents back room, we would come across photos of them in their youth. Sometimes, if we were lucky, the year and the name of the person in the photo would be scribbled on the back. And although the photos were in black and white, faded by exposure and tattered around the edges they had the power to spark imagination of times long gone, and to connect us to our family members as they once were – children just like us.

I love the above picture of my Great Aunt Gena. I never met her, so I can’t say for certain, but I get the feeling she is the kind of person that would grab life by the balls and never let go. Not only is it objectively a great picture – the graceful divers, the shadowy other-worldly forms on the wall of the imposing lock, the other girls spaced evenly along the top as spectators – for me it speaks volumes about my family’s history, their adventurous spirit – it communicates with me. I feel lucky to have seen this picture. And I wonder what other stories and images I’m missing about my ancestors past that are lost forever.

Consequently I often think about the digital fingerprint that humans of our time will leave long after their passing. Detail about each of our lives, including our day to day activities, interests, thoughts and moods will be available to future generations if they care to look. Our bodies and minds may decay and pass away, but our ghost will remain in the machine.

Future generations will be able to rummage through our digital back room. And the images, videos and sound bites will be location stamped, organized in a timeline and presented in full color HD. So I find it worthwhile to think about this and take some time to figure out what it is you want to say to them. Whether you like it or not, your life will be communicated to future generations as long as humans exist. Embrace this as the gift that it is! We talk about the “luxuries” that our generation enjoys and takes for granted – the health, the education, the ability to travel, but these comforts are nothing compared to the power we have to convey information to the future. History was once written by the victors – it is now written by us all.

  • maureen husum

    Aunt Gena was one of the kindest, most beautiful women I ever met. We would all take the train from Balboa to Margarita every Thanksgiving and she would make an amazing dinner and put out all the fine china. Since we had 11 kids in our family, Aunt Gena was always the one who made sure there was a little something special at Christmas or when we were sick. She won a hand painted, wooden Barbie doll furniture set at an auction and sent it to us for Christmas, it was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. Once when I was in the hospital she sent me a bouquet of carnations with dimes sticking out of them, I thought I was rich! She seemed to know those simple things really could bring joy. She treated everyone she met that way. Mom told me she was a professional diver at the Panama Hilton for years, but she smoked. One time she came out of the pool coughing up blood, and that was the beginning of the end for her health. So sad that cigarettes robbed us of such wonderful lady. She was also offered the role as Jane in the Tarzan movies, but Grandma would not let her go as “Nice girls didn’t go to Hollywood!”

    • Brandon

      Wow thanks for sharing. Love those stories.

  • Marianne Field Hockin

    Genevieve Kathleen Foley Field was my mom. I miss her everyday – her life was short-lived and she died at the young age of 57. She was the most caring, loving, sweet and spiritual woman I have ever known – (along with her sisters, by the way – one of them being your grandma and the other your Great Aunt Ellie). I, too, love this picture of her diving from the Locks into the Canal in Panama. It is truly a reflection of her life. To this day, I am still afraid of heights. She, on the other hand, had no fear. She loved to swim, dive and do anything associated with the water. She taught most of the kids in Margarita, CZ how to swim – in those days, you had to earn badges in order to go to the public pools.
    But what I love/d most about my mom was her love for her family and how she kept us connected. So, as you go on this adventure, share with us, give us food for thought, keeping us all connected……..I want you to know that she will be right there with you, following along, as will all your other relatives, friends and love ones…Abrazos…..Cuz M

    • Brandon

      Wow that’s awesome, thanks for the comment.