Diaries: Should They Stay or Should They Go?

You know how it is when you’re not thinking about a particular thing, but then it keeps coming up from different groups of people and from different media outlets and then you can’t stop thinking about it? My husband and I had that recently with a movie, and now feel like we have to see The French Connection.

That’s also how it is with diaries lately. Not the writing in them, but the keeping. Which of your old diaries/journals do you keep? Do you keep them all for your loved ones to read after you’re dead? After all, you’re no longer able to be embarrassed by anything in there. Will the people who read them after you’re gone get to know the real you or the you at your most unpleasant (since that’s when we’re most likely to pour our hearts out)?

I have friends who’ve dealt with it differently. One person gave all her journals to her best friend to look through and glean anything that her daughter might want to read. Another tossed all her journals from before she met her now-husband and felt a glorious freedom and recommitment to her marriage after getting rid of all evidence of boyfriend angst.

I’m a keeper. Not of general crap — on the contrary, that I love to throw away. But if something has emotional value or resonance, I keep it. I have every letter ever sent to me, letters I wrote but never sent (I am the queen of good intentions and lack of follow-through), every diary I ever purchased, every poem written to me by a boy. I haven’t decided what to do with it all.

So I’m going to sift through it here, with an audience. To protect the unsuspecting, I’ll type all names as initials. If you wish to out yourself in the comments, feel free. Let’s start with my earliest entries, age 9:

10/1/1977: That afternoon there was a bazzar to raise money for my school. There were cartoons pie’s cookie’s & juice. I bought a couple of plants. That night after supper my father gave me my punishment. It was to stay in my room after our talk. I think now it was a good one, because while I was reading Higher Than the Arrow, when Francie thought about her bad feelings, I thought about mine. Showery all day miserable and dull.

10/2 had a drawing of a horse. My horse-drawing abilities have not improved in 35 years.

10/15/1977: Today day we had quite a nice day. N and R came over unexpectedly. N left at lunch time and didn’t come back in the afternoon. R stayed and we played Little House on the Prairie. We did watch some television. When R was just about ready to go we talked about the unfairness of grown ups to kids. R told me that one day she would run away to her own house that is near ours now. I said I might do some thing like that. But I knew R wouldn’t do such a thing. I started Anne Frank and like it. Even though I never read sombodys diary, I think it is the most exciting I would ever read.

10/16/1977: Dear A: R. came over today. So far she has told at least 2 or 3 lies. At church we spoke into the microphone. M was at church but she has to go back tonight. R and I are now playing house & school.

I’m sure I wasn’t as accepting or conscientious about all my punishments as I was about that one (for what, I have no idea). It’s so earnest. And dear. But, of course, also unfair, as are all grownups. There’s a lot of foot stomping in these diaries, all out of proportion to my actual treatment by the grownups in my life.

 

7 thoughts on “Diaries: Should They Stay or Should They Go?

  1. oh, you are a daring woman! (some little niggling thought is…did i do anything noteworthy to be in your diary…and was it good…or bad…if bad, i am sorry!)

    1. I’m sure nothing bad, Grace. We’ll have to see whether your wedding makes it in there — I felt so very grownup being allowed to go.

  2. The summer after my mother (your Aunt Ginger) died, I spent a week on your dad’s beach reading her journals. It was enlightening, sad, terrifying and laugh out loud funny. Ask your cousin Charys about them, I think she still has most of them.

    1. Yes, you are the friends I referenced in the post. I’ve been wondering: when did those journals start? From her youth or just after you all were born?

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