Monday, January 30, 2012

The Value of a Journal

The day after my daughter was born (21 years ago), my mother gave me a journal. It is a hard-cover blank book, 8 1/2 x 11 with a beautiful cover. I started writing in it the day we got home after her birth, thinking it would hold the wonder of her first year. Somewhere around her 15th birthday, I stopped, and there are perhaps 20 empty pages left.
This past weekend we both read it. I hadn't even looked at it for years. I am so grateful to my mom for that nudge. It is filled with so many things that I could never have remembered.
In the beginning, I wrote about the adjustments of going from a thoroughly capable mid-30's business woman to not having a clue what to do, how to manage around her schedule, and learning to cope with a lot less independence. I wrote about how deeply and completely I fell in love with her.
Later, I recorded all of her big days, the cute little things she said and did, and how all of her relationships developed. As loved ones came into the world, others left, and all of those emotions and reactions are on those pages.
Many, many pages talk about her developing personality and how we clashed from time to time. How the doctor told me that as difficult as her strong will might be, the day would come when we would understand how valuable it was - and his advice to let her own that, comforting her when she allowed it, but not punishing her (thank you, wise doctor).
Historic events are there too, and the way we thought about them at the time. The wall between East and West Germany coming down, 9-11, Katrina, and many weather events and happenings that were more local.
There are references to our struggles as a family, while both her father and I were involved in business start-ups at the same time, and the toll it took on everyone, eventually ending that marriage.
Her first experiences with gardening and herbs are in there, as well as her love of animals, music, and dance.

The thing that amazed me most reading over it was how valuable the information is to her now. It isn't just the history and how our lives played out with consequences she didn't understand (and now does), but how clearly she can see how real and sure her place is in my heart. My mother told me she loved me, but I didn't get it until I held my own child. Yet here is a book-long love letter, filled with pictures, hair clippings, details, nicknames, and all the back-story.
Over the years, I've written a boatload of words.
This is the one pile of words that means the most.

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