I’m often asked what it’s like to be a writer — how I spend my days, how I experience the world. And so I will be sharing occasional essays from the front lines of my writing life. Enjoy!
Note: When I was 9, my mother gave me a diary. It was 10 days before Christmas, and I simply couldn’t wait until the new year to begin writing in it. Hence, my diary covered more than one year.
December 15. I make my first entry in my very first diary:
“Dear Dairy, My mother said that I would not write in you evry day. I do not think it is true.” One month later, I make my second entry:
“Dear diary, I will treat you like my best friend. I love a boy named Josph. I try to show it but It is of no use.”
I remember Joseph. He had a shiny black crew cut and had an older brother who was so cute that I ran away whenever he came near me.
I don’t know why I liked Joseph. I do know, however, that my passion was short lived. On Feb. 6, he merited one last mention: “In my drems I drem of him. Josph likes some other girl. I wish he would like me.” And then Joseph, the boy of my dreams disappeared. Like a dream.
But such is the nature of childhood memories. They fade as they lose their immediacy and edge. One memory blends into the other into the other. And yet some memories shine through; they live on by virtue of having been entered in my diary. As a (former) journalist who has been trained to think in terms of news worthiness, I wonder why I reported some events and not others.
Some events, have obvious significance, of course. For example: Feb. 18, 1963: “A new singing group was born. The Beatles. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I love them all.” Or Nov. 22, 1963: “The Presadint is dead. 3 gun shots fired at him. John F. Remmedy.”
Other entries are more questionable:
Feb. 10: “I wish I knew ballay.” April 1: “April fool, go to school, tell your teacher she’s a fool … .” April 22: “Today is my girlfriends birthday. I put this down just to satisfi her if she knew war was in here.” Or June 4: “Today it is the 4 of June.”
Like any historian, I know I shouldn’t judge the past from the vantage of the present. That I felt compelled to report on June 4th that it was June 4th means that it was a significant day, especially when I consider that the entry was one of only 20 I made all year.
Still today, decades later, I wish I had been more expansive. I‘d like to know what I meant when, on Jan. 14, I wrote: “My grandmother yelled at me. I do not think it was fare.” Or when on Jan. 13, I scribbled, “So many things happened.” Period. Was so much happening that I couldn’t find time to write about it? And what did I mean by “things” anyway?
I’ll never know, of course, just as I’ll never fully know or remember the third-grader who kept her diary hidden beneath a pile of clothes lest her older sister find it and read its deep secrets. I’ll have to be satisfied with piecing together the entries and matching them up to old photographs, report cards and the other paraphernalia of childhood.
And though I don’t remember much of third grade, I will have to trust that as a budding journalist I was objective when, on Dec. 31, I reported, “The end of a fun fill pack year.” May I have more like it.