Thursday, August 2, 2007


I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand.
--Chinese Proverb

Do you keep a journal? I started my first one when I was about seven years old. I still have it somewhere. One of those little navy blue books with a lock and key and a lined and dated page for every day of the year. For some reason I liked to write in it with a magenta ballpoint pen that left big blobs of ink on the pages. O the deathless prose! O the boundless excitement of growing up in Queens!

"Sister Grace Winifred let me erase the blackboard! Lucky day!"

"Ginger put her coat on for the first time this year!" Ginger, of course, was our Irish Terrier.

The funny thing is how many memories those simple sentences bring back to life, memories that would have been lost without that well-worn, ink-stained book.

I dropped journaling for a few years then picked it up again when I was fifteen and continued pretty steadily with it until my parents died in 2001. I had chronicled the course of their illnesses in great detail, both medical and emotional. The journal became my safety valve, the one place where I could say all of the things I couldn't say in the real world, the scary unimaginable stuff that would wake me up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding crazily inside my chest.

After they died, however, the need for the journal left me. Some people say that journaling fulfills a purpose when you're unhappy that it can't fulfill when life is good. Which is probably an oblique way of saying that happy people lead boring lives. Boring, at least, when it comes to writing about them.

I wish I hadn't let the habit slip away from me. Life slips away from us quickly enough. Why not hang onto the details for as long as we can.


Anonymous medusa said...

My twenty year old daughter just found my first diary, when having a sleep over with her pal. They had a good laugh at my expense.....and then read a few entries to me the next day. There were lots of "He is real cute." and etc, but also history, USA and family. I had recorded the day the JFK was assinated, and more in that little red book! I agree that life just passes by while we are having fun.

August 2, 2007 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Barbara Bretton said...

I'm impressed that you recorded historical data, Medusa. If you judged the state of the world by the journals I kept when I was in my teens and twenties, you'd think I lived in a rose-colored bubble. The only occasions of note that I remember seeing in my journals were the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and the moon landing in 1969.

August 3, 2007 6:03 PM  

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