I own my mother’s five-year diaries. She kept them from 1952 until she died in 1999. You know the kind of thing — not a journal with blank pages but four lines for each year and five years of the same date all on one page. Not a lot of space for a whole day.
Since those diaries are about my life as well as hers, I wanted to own them. You never outgrow your need for your mother’s comfort and I thought of the years ahead. I would pull them out and enjoy them and remember her with love. She would have preferred to be buried with them, but I did some very unflattering begging. They were her final gift to me.
After I read them, I must admit my mother’s diaries present me as a woebegone sort of child and I am not sure she always showed the proper amount of parental concern for my sensitive little self.
“April 17, 1955: Lovely day. Bill helped Johnnie start breezeway. Then we went to Irene’s for dinner. Girls rode horses — Linda fell off.”
Wouldn’t you think she might have mentioned whether I was OK? I know there are only four lines per day, but was I crushed under the hooves of a thundering stallion? She could have at least replaced that breezeway stuff with something like “O! My poor darling girl.”
A casual approach to my traumas seems to be a thread through the early years. For instance, this from a vacation in Florida:
“February 21, 1954: Lots of rain today. Linda got stung by a Man-o-War. Badly. We had red snapper dinner for 14 on our patio. Betty &Mike visited until late this eve.”
I remember the Man o’ War incident as far more gut wrenching than Ma gave it credit. I was surrounded by searing tentacles, then got my hands severely stung trying to pick them off. A lady on the beach dumped a bottle of ammonia on top of me, so I not only hurt, I stank. I could have been scarred for life. Actually, I was scarred for life with a burn mark across one knee. Who gives a damn how long Betty and Mike gossiped into the night?
“February 24, 1953: Ironing, ironing, etc! Ma &Phyllis both came for supper. I took Linda for a filling at the dentist. She was miserable acting. Nice day.”
Nice day? Nice day?? For Christ’s sake, the dentist was a scary old monster who clamped your mouth wide open then hummed “Ama Pola, My Pretty Little Poppy” the entire time he glared down your gullet. And she says I was miserable.
I suppose if she manifested a certain laissez-faire approach to mothering, it is because I am a second child. There would have been more teeth gnashing if she had kept a diary when Sis was a kindergartner. And in fairness, on the rare occasion that both Sis and I managed to behave, it made headline news.
“March 5, 1952: Went shopping this a.m. Linda &I visited Frances F. this p.m. Tonite we all tore off to Wayne &saw ‘Distant Drums.’ It was real good – so were the kids.”
On a night that we acted as well as Gary Cooper, it was cause for comment. It still gives me warm fuzzy feelings here on the back nine.
Linda B. Myers is a founding member of Olympic Peninsula Authors and writer of such books as “Fun House Chronicles,” and the Bear Jacobs mystery series. Her newest novel, “Bear At Sea” published in March, is now available at amazon.com. Contact her at email@example.com or Facebook.com/lindabmyers.author.