We signed a lease on a townhouse yesterday. Our house-sitting gig ends in November, so right around the time we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving, and our son’s birthday, and our daughter’s birthday, and right there in the thick of the Christmas season, we will be moving! Sounds fun, doesn’t it? But we are thrilled because we will be moving into our own place again, with our own stuff, unpacked and out of boxes. With our bread board, and our recipes, both hard- and paperback versions of Lonesome Dove, my green coffee mug, a checkbook we need to find.
And my diaries.
My grandmother gave me my first diary – a baby blue book with a tiny gold lock – and I loved that thing like a best friend. I can’t remember how old I was when I started writing in it. I think I might have been a little younger than our daughter is now because I can picture my handwriting, a kindergarten-like “Dear Diary,” scrawled on every yellowed page. What did I write about at age five? What was on my mind? What were my secret thoughts, my concerns, my deepest desires at that innocent stage in life? Maybe I just wrote about what I did that day. What color shirt I wore. “I ate Cheerios for breakfast. They were good. Bye.”
It is highly probable that that diary was the genesis of my love for writing. I think in words rather than images*, and my head is often swirling with sentences, theoretical conversations, random words that have no context. If I don’t get them out, phrases and fragments begin rearranging themselves in different combinations in my head, over and over and over again, like headlines on the scrolling ticker at the bottom of the TV screen. Those damn mind-tickers keep me up at night and distract me during the day. Penning my thoughts on paper has always been an effective release, as writing them out removes them from my head, much like Dumbledore’s Pensieve.
I generally don’t go back and look at my private writings, because as I grew, my journals mostly became a repository of stress. But I had a genius idea at work the other day. When we move, I want to finally open my box of diaries – all 30 something years of them – and read them as our daughter grows. To use them as guideposts, to gain perspective, to remember what it’s like to be a seven year old girl, a nine year old girl, a teenage girl. To remind myself what was important at each age, which thoughts were so significant, which stresses so overwhelming to me that I was compelled to write them down.
To put myself in her shoes so I’ll know where she’s coming from, whatever age she may be.
Because I’ll be frank with you. I have a hard time remembering what it was like to be a kid. Even though I consider one of my greatest strengths to be empathy, of being able to see situations from all sides and understand each person’s point of view, I have a terrible time doing that for our kids. I am not child-like (unless we’re talking fart jokes and footballs in the crotch – that’s funny stuff), and I often treat our kids as if they should be more grown up than they are. I struggle with being stuck in my adult frame of mind, distracted by my grown-up mind-ticker, and I want to appreciate their point of view. How can you help someone, how can you be close to them, if you don’t see their point of view?
I can’t wait to find that first diary and read through the entries til I find my seven-year-old self. Maybe even read it with our daughter when I present her with her very own first diary. A diary that will house her own child thoughts, an outlet for now, and a window back in time when she wants to be able to tell her own daughter, “I understand. I remember.”
*I recently discovered, in year 14 of our marriage, that my husband often thinks in images rather than in words. This discovery was a revelation to me – I thought everyone thought in words! – and has deepened my understanding of him, and of myself, and of us, and of communication styles.