Originally, I wrote this for the seniors I tutor on computers and the internet. You might want to share it with your grandparents or parents.
Initially, in the late 1980s, I did not bond with our first Macintosh computer. I named it Pandora and abandoned it to the custody of my four daughters for the its first few months of life. A lefthander, I could not master the mouse. Apple had a mouse–training program requiring you to use the mouse to drive an online car. I was close to tears as I repeatedly drove the car off the road to the sound of screeching brakes. My former husband, a radiation physicist, gave me excellent advice: “Relax, Mary Jo, it is not like poking around under the hood of your car when you don’t know what you are doing. If you touch the wrong key, it won’t explode.”
Fortunately for me, public librarians are given no choice about computer literacy. You learn or you leave. I quickly overcame my initial phobia. Now I cannot imagine life without my Mac. My four daughters love to travel for both business and pleasure. Anne, the oldest, has traveled to over 65 countries. At one point Anne was in Africa and Michelle, two years younger, was in Australia. Naturally anxious, I cold not cope unless I had my daily instant message or email fix.
A year ago, Anne flew to Singapore on an 18-hour nonstop flight. I checked her progress on Flight Tracker about once an hour. When Vanessa was working for the UN in Kosovo, she had a webcam at work. Seeing her waving and blowing kisses first thing in the morning was wonderfully reassuring. When she spent the summer in Rwanda studying the aftereffects of genocide, she could instant message me when I was sitting outside at my picnic table outside, taking advantage of our wireless connection.. That seemed truly miraculous. Now the girls live in Manhattan, Boston, and Chicago. We fully share in each other’s lives because we email everyday. We have an hguys email list; hguys are the girls, their husbands, my husband, my ex-husband, and my son-in-law’s sister.
We also have an extended family email list. My five brothers, their wives, my daughters, their husbands, my 11 nieces and nephews and their spouses–all belong. Sadly, my far-flung family infrequently see each other face-to-face at holidays, weddings, and funerals. But we have had many more family reunions in cyberspace.
I love how easy the internet makes sharing to share family photos. When caring for my mom in the last four years of her life, I digitalized thousands of family slides and photos. My husband Peter, a computer programmer, wrote software that enabled me to create photo websites. I can caption each picture and arrange all of them in chronological order. Last year, on each family members’s birthday, I created a special birthday website, scanning in pictures many family members had never seen.
My mom was the family matriarch; as her memory declined over the last four years of her life, the family story was endangered. Frequent viewing of her website seemed to clear the webs of dementia and helped mom remember both who everyone was and her own life history. At her wake, I was able to attach my Ibook laptop to our television set. Mourners were able to enjoy a slideshow of hundreds of pictures of Mary Koch, the vibrant, energetic teacher, trailblazer, and activist.
My husband Peter and I met on the Internet eleven years ago, September 1995. We both belonged to a Jane Austen discussion list. We love to tell people Jane Austen introduced us, even though I was on Long Island and Peter was in London. True love triumphed over 3,000 miles, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, and a five-hour time difference. We were married December 1, 2001 and are living happily ever after.
My daughters say I know more about computers and the Internet than any 62 year old they know. I am very proud of that. I am so grateful I learned to love Pandora’s Box . At the bottom of Pandora’s box is hope. The Internet seems the most hopeful development of the 21st century, blurring national boundaries, furthering understanding and communication across religious and ethnic differences.