On my tenth birthday (my birthday falls 11 days before Christmas), I was gifted with my very first diary. It had a red cover that looked like leather, and came with a lock and key. I began writing in it immediately.
My first entries were simple sentences describing the life of a girl who had three younger brothers, a working father, and a stay-at-home mother.
On Christmas Eve, I wrote my first full-page entry. My parents were having a holiday party, and we were ordered to bed early. Because it was Christmas Eve, we were allowed to push together the two twin beds in the older boys’ bedroom, and all sleep together. We lay there in the dark, giggling and tickling, and imagining that we heard Santa’s reindeer on the roof. We were so excited about morning coming and being able to run downstairs and see what presents were left under the tree.
I heard music wafting up from the basement (the rec room, as it was called). It sounded like someone was playing an organ. I had asked Santa for an organ! Could it be that he had already brought it to the house? I tiptoed into the bathroom with my diary and my pencil and wrote furiously in that little red book about the organ I hoped I’d find the next day. I was right. There was an organ for me. It was a memorable Christmas for me… that Christmas of 1969.
But 1969 was even more memorable because of that little book with the lock and key. I began writing that year, and I never stopped. My diary became my closest confidante.
I have more than three decades of journals safely stored away in what I call my “memento boxes”. They chronical my journey through life with its ups and downs, heartaches and joys, accomplishments and losses. My last several years of journals were mostly kept via online venues – such as this blog, and my Alaska Journal. I do occasionally write long hand, but those entries are my most private writings and are sporadic at best. My everyday life is here – in cyberspace – sometimes shared with many; sometimes shared with only a few; sometimes shared with no one. Periodically, I convert my online writing to a pdf file and download it to my hard drive and burn it to a DVD. I’ve thought about printing it out and binding it, but I fear too many trees would lose their life!
I love to write. I love to move what I feel inside to the outside. Sometimes the words flow easily. Sometimes my fingers are ‘tongue-tied’. Sometimes I write very long entries, full of emotion and deep thoughts, and then delete them – feeling better just for getting it all outside myself.
Sometimes I see something, or experience something, and I can’t think of the right words to describe it. There are moments when I believe that the precise words haven’t been invented yet.
I don’t profess to be an expert writer. I don’t expect to find anything I’ve written published or offered for sale in a bookstore. I write because I enjoy it. I write because I want to leave a record of my everyday life for my sons, and maybe grandchildren someday.
I found a few pages from my mother’s high school diary a few days after she died. I don’t know why they were torn from the journal, or where the rest of the journal is. There were no deep dark secrets revealed, to warrant putting them away for safekeeping. They were the words of a 17-year-old “girl-woman”, who was flirtatious with the boys in her school, working at a dress shop, and staying out way too late on a school night.
And I cherish those creased pages; I cherish them because they paint a picture of my mother before life became complicated. She was just like any other 17-year-old boy crazy girl. So much more than “a mother”.
I hope that someday my writing will reveal the same to my sons.
“You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all, just as an intelligence without the possibility of expression is not really an intelligence. Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing.” ~ Luis Buñuel