Monday, March 3, 2008

The journals

I am one of those horribly curious people. Seriously, I'll drive around the block just so I can gawk some more. It's really something I should seek help for, I know.
Well, when I was a child my great grandmother, Nolia, kept a daily journal. I always pestered her about what she wrote in it and she never shared. But, every night she wrote in that darned book. Every night. She'd take the journal down out of the hutch, scratch in it for awhile and then wrap the old red rubber band back around it and tuck it safely back into it's spot. It drove me nuts to know what she was writing.
For years and years I harbored secret visions of finding her journals and being consumed by the adventures of her life. I just knew that somewhere in those black leather books lurked a great love story, some deep family secrets or some insights into her elegant yet very utilitarian persona.
I guess I should back up a bit and tell you a bit about her. She was tall and slender, with white hair that reached down her back; which she insisted on brushing 100 times per night. She only wore dresses, never ever wore pants, even when she was working in the garden- which of course totally mistified me I thought bell bottoms were the best. She was well-spoken and educated, having earned her college degree. She was married to my great grandfather, Roy, and by all accounts they were just madly inlove with each other. When he died in his early 60's she nearly went mad and had all the apple trees in our family orchard plowed under and then she set up a cattle operation. It was quite the scandal.
So, you see, I thught I had reason to hope for some juicy reading. I was wrong.
My grandma Nolia died when I was in Petaluma at boarding team member school. I was heart broken and overcome with grief that someone whom I loved so much had passed and I was stuck in a far away place. My instructors gave me an afternoon off to gather my thoughts before I headed back into class. During that afternoon my thoughts were swirling around her journals. I called home and asked that they be saved until I could come home and look through them.
It turned out that it was years and years before I would ever have that chance. Time, as it has a way of doing, just got away from me. Trips home grew further and further apart and reading those journals just got to be something that I barely remembered, much less even thought of reguarly.
But, at some point about 10 years later I sat down with a musty box of old journals. They were all very non-discript, mostly black leather but a few green ones thrown in. The pages were covered with her writing, not neat but not unreadable and usually in black ink, like she was firmly committed to what she was writing. The entries were simple and brief.

Rain in the morning, with sun for the balance. Peach was buried today. Chicken for dinner.
Snow squalls this afternoon. The road is good. Benjamin had a daughter, her name is Elaine.

I felt jipped. All those years I had dreamed of reading those journals. Of discovering some mysterious person who had been hidden deep inside my grandmother. But, as I read over those entries I was reminded that it was my grandmother that I had found. It was her life she was writing about; planting beans, marking births and deaths, remembering the weather, commenting on recipes. She was quick, sometimes almost short in her responses to people, her entries were no different. She saved the important bits and facts, not bothering to linger over the unnecessary or frivilous.
I think about our lives. Married to Coast Guardsmen, balancing our day to day lives with underway schedules, kids, jobs, pets, shopping and all. And I think about our writing. Will our children be disappointed when they read about what made us "us". Will they be surprised that we spent all of our time researching schools and new housing areas, networking with other wives for ladies nights out, and trying to swap dog and child sitting with our neighbors.
My hope is that someday when my children look back and see what I've written in blogs and journals and albums that they are reminded what a crazy adventure this life is, about the places we've been and the friends we've made.
Oh, and I hope they wonder why I write about the weather.
Rain in the morning, sunny for the balance.


Amber said...

What a neat opportunity to look at those journals. There's no telling what the kids and grandkids will have to say about us. It's really a shame that we don't make more of an effort anymore to write hard copy journals. -- or at least I don't.

We do live quite the adventure, don't we?

Who I Am said...

Quite the perspective. Thanks for sharing that story. Amber's right. We should write more in hard copy, in our own writing, so that our children's children can see how their grandmother's wrote and read what they will from it.

Just a Girl in a Port said...

My husband has always wondered why I journal. I journal for that very reason. I hope that one day my children will take a keen interest in the woman I was and want to know more about our lives. So, I write. There may be months between my entries, but they are honest and they are true to our/my life. I have always wanted to find something like that in my family--a window to the past. How lucky for you to have that. I must say, the weather, and noting it, is remarkably important. With that, I hope the sun continues to shine on you and the rain stays away.

Christina Cope Anderson said...

Sun for balance. Balance. I was pensive for a long period before responding to this post.

It was only recently that I began blogging. Except for my childhood journals filled with gossip, I have never kept a true journal. I am deeply private about certain matters. Reflecting on the balance in life struck me. I wish I had the fortitude to recognize balance among the chaotic schedules we hold in a world filled with rapid media, cellphones, and the capability to be on another continent within 8 hours or less. IN a world of Web 2.0-dom, have we lost the art of reflection and value other attributes instead?

Perhaps being able to focus on JUST gardening, raising a family, and loving my husband is a day gone by. We need to find that balance again, ladies. We need to be content when the sun gives us balance.

If only it were possible.