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Thursday, February 8, 2018


I had to clear out a lot of classical books to make room.

When I was fourteen or fifteen I started keeping a journal. It was only a three-ring binder with plain lined three ring note paper. One of the reasons I kept it was so when I had teenagers, I would be able to read it and remember how I felt as a teenager. Actually, I had good parents, but they had rules to keep us in line which weren’t all that hard on us. Because I was the oldest and my mother had health problems sometimes, I had jobs to do like wash the dishes. When I complained enough, my mother told my brother, Jerry, who was sixteen months younger than me to dry the dishes. That was even worse because he’d snap me with the dish towel.

One day when I was sitting on the back porch steps talking with a neighborhood boy who I was seeing. We didn’t go out on dates, but he’d ride his bicycle down to visit. He was in my grade, a red-head with freckles. He was the first boy I’d ever kissed .when we were making out in my brothers old antique Model A Ford in the garage. It wouldn’t start, but he wasn’t old enough to drive. However when he did get it to running he drove like a crazy guy around my grandparent’s farm with me and our cousins either inside or standing on the running board hanging on. Once my cousin Sally fell off and the back wheel ran over her foot. Fortunately it didn’t break it..

 Anyway, Tom and I were sitting there talking when Jerry came to the screen door, locked it and opened my journal and pretended to read it making up everything, like saying I loved kissing Tom, and so on. Tom was cracking up laughing while I was pounding on the locked screen door screaming for my mother who was upstairs.

When I graduated from high school and met the boy I would end up marrying and also got a job, the journal was neglected, but I never got rid of it. Unfortunately, years later when I’d been married with four children already, the basement of the house my husband had built flooded on one side, and the journal I had kept somehow had ended up on the floor and was pretty much ruined. I’ve always wished I still had that.

Life was busy raising four children born in less than five years with a husband who worked every day as a maintenance man and electrician, who also started his own weekend and evening business putting up antennas back before there was such a thing as cable TV. So any writing I did was sending letters to my three sisters when they were in college, and taking care of the books for my husband.
Just two of my journals with nice covers.

Sometime in the early 1980s, I started keeping a journal again. By this time I had started college and didn’t write quite as much because I had essays to write and classes to study for. I loved college and ended up taking extra classes especially in literature, poetry and writing.

A few years later I became single, and.I was living in the farm house I bought when my husband had his mid-life crises and left. I was teaching third grade then and most evenings I had papers to grade, but usually found time to write in my journal before heading to bed. This afternoon I counted all my journals since that first one I wrote. I have written 71 journals, and that doesn’t count the latest one I started or the gardening journals I kept for several years. I'm starting to read some of my old journals to remember things from the past.

What made me interested in writing about keeping a journal is the book club I belong to that gets together in December at my house to pick books for the following year, picked the book Saint MAZIE by Jami Attenberg. Much of the book is Mazie’s journal starting Dec. 3, 1909 and continuing until March 15, 1939. There are excerpts from the unpublished autobiography of Mazie Phillips-Gordon, too. And scattered throughout are brief paragraphs by people who knew her, as well as a long eleven page entry by Mazie’s youngest sister Jeanie. All the book takes place in New York City. I haven’t quite finished it yet because I just got it from the library several days ago but I should have it done in the next few days. I took a picture of it but my computer was acting up again. 

Do you keep a journal?
If not now have you ever kept a journal?


Kait said...

You inspired me to start a garden journal which I kept when I lived in Maine and had a garden. I still look back on it. It wasn't a daily journal, but more of an event journal noting what was planted, what came in, and weather (First killing frost - August 17). When we go back, I'll take it up again, but expand on it to include photos now that cell phone cameras have been invented.

I started keeping journals as a child. My first was from the Girl Scout catalog--it was green with a lock that my entire family, except me, could pick with a bobby pin. I kept journals for a few years, then stopped. I picked up the habit again after my divorce and journaled fairly regularly after that. With the advent of computers, I transferred all of my journals to files so I could search them - 5-1/4 floppy discs. Then I threw out the journals. A few years later, I transferred the information to the 3" floppies and found out many of the originals were unreadable. All of the data from those early journals is now lost.

I still journal, but not faithfully. I wish there was a good computer program for journals, but if there is, I haven't found it.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I don't journal, but I do send out a Friday email to a group of friends scattered across the country, detailing what's new (snow, ice, wintery mix), my thoughts on what I'm reading, and noteworthy news from my kids. And flower and garden photos, starting with snowdrops sometime this month and continuing through the year.

And I do print them out and keep them in a folder.

Gloria Alden said...

Kait, after I published this I went out to my sun room to count my gardening journals and there were 17 of those to add to the other journals. I have a tree I bought years ago from one of the many gardening catalogs I get because I had seen one in a Pittsburgh garden near a museum. It's grown beautifully, but for the life of me I can't remember what its name is now. I'm sure if I start going through those I'll finally find the name of it. As for keeping a journal now, As soon as I settle down in my nesting chair for the evening, I write in my journal before I start reading.

Margaret, that's almost like a journal. At least you're keeping track of something going on in your life to return to. Your flower photos are totally awesome. I can vouch for that from the ones you send me and I have saved.

Anonymous said...

I used to write in a journal as a form of therapy. Truthfully I just got tired of writing sad and depressing stuff. LOL I used large 5 subject spiral binders. When the depression lifted years later, I reviewed what I had written and threw them all away. It felt like a form of freedom. -- Laura

Gloria Alden said...

Laura, you could be writing about happier stuff now. For instance, there has to be something in your job that makes you smile sometimes, or write about how you feel about those people who are fighting something worse than what you have in the past. You could just write something funny or sweet your cat does, or having a meal with your sister, or what went on at our writers group meeting.

KM Rockwood said...

I've never kept a journal. I don't have very many photographs, either.

I think I prefer to remember my version of things that have happened in the past. I'm really not at all sure I'd like the cold reality to stare me in the face.

Shari Randall said...

That is a very impressive collection, Gloria! I have never really journaled, but I wish I did. I think that people consider journaling something to do with unhappy thoughts, but I'd like to clarify some of my happier memories and relive them. Wish I'd put them on paper.

Gloria Alden said...

KM, that's one way of looking at it. My daughter the other evening said when I pass on, she's going to use them to write my memoir. I have an incredible amount of photographs, too.

Shari, my journals contain happy events, too, probably much more than the unhappy ones. I'd rather not write about a family member upsetting me because after I'm gone I don't want them reading such things and feeling badly about it. However, most of them are boring just telling what I did that day, etc. Maybe something like I went to Aldi's today to get groceries, and met someone I hadn't seen in years.