Dated: January 1, 2022
It started (for me) with a diary.
I think I received my first diary when I was seven years old as a present from
my Grandmother Annie. That first diary read something like a weather report.
Annie always said that I should write something, anything in my diary every
day, without fail, and that I would become both a better person and a better
writer. So every day for almost a year I wrote something like, "Dear
Diary, Today it rained." or "Dear Diary, Today it snowed." or
Dear Diary, Today the sun was out."
Certainly, this was not the stuff that people auction off for thousands of
dollars after you are dead! Some years later my life must have gotten more
interesting, or I didn't mind writing in it as much because the entries grew
longer and the weather became less important. Now the entries read like
schedules of events.
"Dear Diary, Today I went to ballet class and a riding lesson."
"Dear Diary, Today I had to go to the dentist and then to ballet."
"Dear Diary, Today was my birthday and I got another diary, a pair of
ballet slippers, and a Barbie doll."
I must have been twelve when the idea struck that Diaries had a lock and key
and that that meant I could write something secret in it and lock out anyone
who might read it and get me in trouble. I had never bothered to lock a diary
before and I still didn't have any great secrets from anybody, but I relished
this idea and began to lock my diary and hide its key in my maple tree.
I never bothered to hide my diary until the night I had something really good
to write in it and the key was in its place in the crook of the tree and there
was no way to get to it without getting caught. But I really needed to write
this secret down, to share this gloriously important event with somebody
(except there was no one reachable at nine o'clock at night!) or something . .
. my diary was the only hope.
I pulled a bobby pin out of my hair and began fiddling with the lock on my
diary. It was almost easier to open it with the bobby pin than it was with the
key! With this came the realization that I would have to find a hiding spot for
my diary, because now, finally, I had something worth hiding.
"Dear Diary, This afternoon, I saw my brother in the barn with a girl!
I was in my secret fort in the hayloft and I had a really good view down into
the stall. He kissed her! Yuck! Later when they came out of the barn, they
looked like they had been in a hay fight!"
There. I felt better. This momentous occasion had been written down. It had
been made real and indelible ( a new spelling word!) by the writing. Now where
to hide the diary?
Eighth grade. My first boyfriend. (Well, almost my first, because I suppose
getting kissed by Gary Westfield counted for something, even though he only got
a line or two in my diary.)
Suddenly, the allotted space for each date was never enough. Suddenly, I had a
lot to write about. Suddenly, I was worried about such things as kissing and
what was a french kiss? and would he ever do anything more than call me and
more importantly, did I want him to? Suddenly I realized that my diary could
become a place to dream, to fantasize, and to wonder.
Poor Donald. We never progressed beyond his telling me he wouldn't dance with
me at the eighth-grade dance because he didn't know how. But in my diary, oh,
in my diary, we were the Spencer and Tracy of the dance floor; the Guinevere
and Lancelot of my mountain castle and the natural result of adolescent
The next few years, I filled journal after journal (that word being so much
more 'grown-up' than diary) with the yearnings of unrequited love for the
football manager (even in my wildest dreams I didn't dare aspire as high as the
team captain!), the cute kid in my math class who took pity on my never
understanding quadrilaterals and the dream guy at the missionary seminary who
was going to become a priest someday.
I wrote fiction after fiction about my illicit love life that countered my day
to day boring existence of the 'good girl from the good life' who was beyond
reproach and who hadn't actually figured out what went where until after high
Interspersed here and there were a few truths, that somehow always seemed like
nothing compared to my midnight ravings. Like when I stole a Michael Parks
album from the dime-store and actually got away with it; until I went back into
the store to catch up with a girlfriend. Like when I got my first period and
vowed that I'd never wear white pants again. Like when I wrote down that I put
scotch tape on the pads to hold them in place because I couldn't stand the belts
and thought I'd get in trouble for using tape. ( I should have opened my mouth
about that one, I'd have made a fortune!)
Like when I discovered a bathtub could be a girl's best friend. Like when I ran
into an old friend who asked whatever became of Donald and I said that my
parents wouldn't let me have anything to do with him after we'd heard a rumor
that he had...shhh...VD.
Every year my Grandmother still gave me a journal for my birthday, except that
they no longer had the days written in little pink script and now gave one the
freedom of writing as much or as little as one desired. They also didn't have
little golden heart-shaped locks on them anymore which necessitated pretty good
hiding places even though my brother had gone off to college and my parents
would never read them even had they been given the opportunity. Nope. I hid
them anyway. I wrote and hid all through high school and then I even hid them
College seemed to be the changing point in my journals and in my life. Suddenly
I had real things to write in them. Real-life situations. Real problems. Real
adventures. In my first few weeks away at my female polishing, all-girls
finishing school I did three things for the first time--got drunk, got stoned,
and got laid: all of which never made it into my journal for some reason or
another. In fact, I didn't write in another journal until I was pregnant with
my first child.
Forty years, five children, eleven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren
later, I again keep a journal. Now it is on my computer, locked away from
prying eyes under a variety of passwords. There are actually several journals
locked away permanently due to my inability to remember my oh so carefully
thought up passwords. Sometimes I wonder what I have written in them and resent
that I've managed to lock them away even from myself and wonder why I can't
seem to remember the passwords. Was I unhappy? Mad? or just blowing off steam?
No matter, I've plenty of disk space and more to write about than I have time
Journals are the catch-all: a repository for half-thought out ideas, for
interpreting a day to day world that I often feel unfamiliar with and don't
necessarily even like, for worries, that being in one's mid-sixties, are
evolving and seem to have more serious 'what - if?' aspects to them and the
ever-present dreams of what lies around the next bend in the road. One journal
helped me navigate losing my parents, another saw me through a mother's worries
when her daughter is in the military and sent to a war zone. One kept me sane
while in and (subsequently) running away from an abusive relationship before
broken bones turned into something more deadly. Therapy, reaffirming strides
made, a kick-in-the-backside, a celebration of goals attained or, sometimes,
just getting through a difficult day -- a journal can be all these things, and
keep one writing when there seems no time or, perhaps, no incentive to write.
They are (assuming they aren't lost in a move or, (cough, cough) in a
computer,) a great source of ideas down the road. They provide a unique
perspective of you and how you saw the world around you.
Of course, nowadays, I seem to write about little things. Disconnected things.
Like last night, I wrote about what a beautiful fall day it had been, and how
the sun had been a child's glowing red ball settling into the night like a
forgotten toy. In other words, I wrote about the weather.