Monday, October 16, 2017

A Well-Documented Life

This is the one that started it all.  On April 30, 1963, my parents and my sister gave me a diary.  I think it was a reward for not biting my nails or sucking my finger.  Or a bribe to get me to stop doing those things.  I was ten, going on eleven.

Reading it is a hoot.  My propensity for trying to make the world a better place, or at least one that is more to my liking, seems to have started early.  Note the exclamation marks.  I still use them too much.

I still hate it when a favorite product is no longer available.  I also still can't swallow pills larger than a Motrin caplet.  And I still contact companies, officials, presidents, Congresspeople, mayors, and presidents of companies when I have something to say to them.  I go straight to the top.

November 22, 1963, if a little dramatic:

I still have the song I wrote, very dirge-like, and, yes, lots of chords.  I can't understand why it didn't seal my future as a composer.  Or maybe it did.

Strangely, I mentioned swimming all over the place at a family friend's lake.  I can't swim today and don't recall ever swimming, really swimming, as a child.  I was afraid of the water after almost drowning once.  I imagine that I was walking in the shallow part, waving my arms in the water and professing to 'swim'.  Child Olympic swimmer to landlubber.

There was a gap of a few years after I filled the 1963 diary.  The two small diaries behind the blue one are for 1966 through 1968, an interesting time in my teenage angst-filled life.  I became a committed Anglophile.  I read and read and read.  I was madly in love with Richard Harris, the actor.  And a local boy who was a wrestler, a boy I never spoke to until he showed up years later with a friend at the apartment in Boston I shared with my future husband.  

After 1968, another gap of two years.  That's too bad.  I shed my goody-two-shoes-academic image by dating a hippy who'd been arrested for dealing drugs.  Then I dumped him and in a few months took up with my future husband.  I wish I had the details in a journal rather than just my memories, which I've found can be faulty.

I kept a very sporadic journal (by then I referred to them as 'journals', which sounded, and still sounds, more mature;  diaries are for babies.  And Pepys) for 1970 through 1972.  It's too bad I didn't write more during this time.  I was grasping the sexual revolution with both hands, trying any drugs someone handed to me, falling in love, or lust, okay, it turned out to be true love (still married after 43 years).  I was breaking the law, loving every terrifying minute of it, driving my poor parents mad, and following my heart to Boston.  These were the things I'd been reading about.  Now I was living them.  I was collecting experiences, fodder for my future as a writer, I thought.

I kept my journal in unattractive spiral notebooks and miscellaneous journals from 1974 until 1981.  My husband gave me a 5-year diary in 1974 for our first Christmas as a married couple.  They're not really satisfying because they only allow a few lines per day, but I loved that he got it for me.

The little red and black journals were bought at a store on Newbury Street in Boston.  For quite a few years, I could find new ones here and there.  I liked them a lot, although the paper wasn't the finest.  They were attractive and a convenient size.

In the red journals, in the 1980s, I recorded life in Boston, my work at investment companies, my two years as a bartender, a much needed job change after I got burnt out at the office.  What a cast of characters I met at the bar!  Uncle Louie, an ancient ex-vaudeville performer, Fank, the capital cop who sometimes dressed as the Lone Ranger only with real guns, Jennifer, the tall waitress who dated a jockey and then a comedian whose name you might recognize but who's dead now, Eveyln, whose father was Minister of Wildlife or something in Kenya and who had his own jet.  Yes, he did.  There was also the drama of our family of bartenders and waitresses, whose partners changed sometimes weekly.  

We travelled to the Caribbean in February and to Europe in the fall.  I recorded our trips and adventures.  We had good friends and lots of fun.  We bought a boat and sailed the New England coast.  But sailing bored me and occasionally made me sick, so I left the sailing to Jack and went back to my books.

I bought all eight of the flowered books at the same time.  I think they were from The Christmas Tree Shop in Marshfield, MA, where we lived in the 1990s until 2005.

In 1986, I became seriously addicted to writing in my journal.  I've kept them daily since then.  But why?  The entries are seldom earth shattering, often not even that interesting.  I rarely write about current events, just the things I did that day, things that happened in the neighborhood.  They got me out of a ticket for putting our trash out before 7 PM when I could show the judge the entry for the date of the alleged offense.  I wrote that we'd gone to see the comedian Steven Wright (he's our favorite and he used to drink at the same bar we did in Boston), got home late, and put the trash out around 11PM.  Ticket voided.

The black journals are mostly Moleskine, but, recently, I've discovered a brand called Eccolo World Traveler, which have sturdy but flexible faux leather covers.  I like them better than Moleskine.

Why am I compelled to document my life?  I have no children to pass them on to, children who would read them and realize that their mother was a wild and crazy girl at one time.  If I'd chosen to have children, I would have had a very different life.  In addition to the journals, I have two boxes of letters written between me and my mother after I moved to Boston and before dementia took her from me.

I'm glad I have my journals and letters.  In today's world of e-mail and IMing and Snapchat and Smartphones, people are leaving very little of themselves behind.  Unfortunately, via Twitter, etc., they're saying too much to too many people without too much thought.

What do I do with my journals?  Do I leave them to one of my nieces?  There are very few things in my life that I'm ashamed of, but there are things in my journals that might surprise my family.   Part of me wants them to know my secrets, another wonders if I should let them know.  I worry that they'd think 'that old lady did WHAT?!'  I could always have a huge bonfire or stipulate that they be consigned to one after I'm gone.  

If you keep a journal or diary and have been honest in it, what do you plan to do with yours?