For Bobbie at Year’s End

Bobbie at 15The Christmas I was 9, our mother began an annual practice of giving both her kids a daily diary, which, for the next three years, I virtually never wrote in except to scribble “Had Gym today” on every Tuesday that school was in session.

My older sister wrote in hers though. “Got a horse today,“ Nan fibbingly scribbled on one page of her own personal journal, and so I made a similar entry .Then, when she penned “my horse is expecting” some few days later, I told the identical whopper in my journal and never mind that these two facts could not have BEEN further from the truth for two children living (together with their mother and three ancient folks all born before the Election of 1876) on a narrow city street that trolley cars screeched past both day and night. The only thing that was true between the equine world and us was that we maybe accidentally smooched the televised images of Spin and Marty’s horses while going for the two Disney idols themselves. To put a finer point on it, kissing the TV screen during the Mickey Mouse Club show was basically the most adventurous thing either one of us did back then. So, apparently we thought it best to make stuff up.

But then, when we were in Sixth and Fourth grade respectively, our sweet resident old people died within 15 months of one another. And so, invited to live in a new city with our Aunt Grace and Uncle Jack, Mom closed up and sold the old house and moved there with us, to a street with no trolleys, no lamplighter at dusk, no dusty elderly man with a pushcart bleating “Raaaags!” in an effort to collect folks’ unwanted textiles

I did write in my diary in this new place, which to Nan and me resembled nothing so much as the set of a 60’s TV show with, instead of back alleys and in-ground garbage pails, there were kids on stilts and pogo sticks playing right out in the street. There were tough little crab apples for hurling at one another in the great The-Boys-Against-The-Girls wars, and endless games of kickball ,and skating on the crusty mirror of ice that Mr. Talbot conjured up every winter using just his flat backyard and a garden hose. THEN my entries were action-packed, all right, like this one when I threw my first party:

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But they only became more “inner” when I fell in love.

Because in those days the Church said that kissing for more than five minutes was a Mortal Sin, I became haunted by a letter-of-the law-mentality that lurks just under the surface of most of my entries of my Middle School and High School years. I look now at the record of all that angst – about my immortal soul, and my homework, and whether or would do well enough in school to get a college scholarship – and how I do feel for that young girl drawing at the top of the diary’s pages a heart for the kissing, a church steeple to signify I had gone to Confession, a pair of googly eyes for the all-nighters I pulled trying to get those A’s!

At age 13, I developed a friendship with a girl so much like me that we would read one another’s diaries at the end of every year. Thus, Bobbie saw it all, right up to the time, when, still a ‘mere girl’, I fell in love for keeps, and decided together with this ‘mere boy’ of a guy that we would marry as soon as college was over.

Below is the letter she wrote me after reading my account of my very last year of life as an uncoupled person. It is a letter I found to be so loving when I drew it from between the pages of that year’s diary just now that I thought I would share it here. Here’s what wrote, in long-ago 1968, as she returned that year’s volume:

“Here you are, Terry dear. I will no longer read entries about the Aprils-Junes-Septembers in Terry’s life and you, I’m sure, will stop writing them if you haven’t already. Such a progression from the scrawly writing of the young, young Terry, and then Mike in eighth grade, and Nan’s boyfriend, and that near-death experience when she gave him the Ex-Lax valentine! All that and the pink and golds of heaven and on to next-door Dicky B. and bedroom windows with walkie-talkies between, and Kathy Rodger. and Peter Paul and Mary and of course a different boy and the overstuffed chair in the basement study where that interfering religion made a lovely thing so hard and tortuous.

“So many entries over the school years with your tiny top-of-the-page pictures of the weather, the days’ outfits, the little church spires and stars – and later only weights at the top of pages and notes reading “Oh God it’s 2am!” or “up at 5 sewing clothes” (or making that facsimile of a 12th century manuscript, or just plain writing papers.) Then Senior year and the end of Special Chorus and the Keith dances but Terry’s list of duties continuing, on to college, where most of the pages now are too recent to be memories ….Let’s never stop knowing each other.”

And we haven’t stopped.

I record all this today because I want to report that I never stopped writing the diary either and have just this last hour made the final entry in the 2018 volume. There are 61 of them now, all in a row, all stored in old National Geographic binders in a third-floor bookcase.

I don’t know who will ever read this centipede of a life story except maybe my children, if even they have the fortitude. I do know, however, what writing it has done for me. Week after week, month after month, year after year it has taught me to feel so very grateful for good friends like length of days and the peace of mind to live them out.

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I’m Happy Today

I’m happy today hanging out with my old man David  – these are his arms –

the arms of dpm

who slept so late I thought he’d been kidnapped from our very bed, sucked out through the bedroom window by aliens. Call Liam Neeson!

I’m happy because we will see our daughter Annie and her man John,

just annie

though not their baby-dog Archer, still just a pup, though tall enough at 8 months to sweep the counters clean if left unattended.

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We’ll see our daughter Carrie too, which makes me happy…

mama carrie & baby caroline 11 days old

…though sadly not her  Chris, or their oldest son, since the two of them will I suppose be watching basketball or some such silly March thing while the rest of us are at our favorite eatery.

Along with Carr, we’ll also get to see their two younger children who are always ready to join me in restaurant fun. (Today: tiny black-velvet fuzzy-posters with bright neon-colored markers!) 

Sadly, we won’t get to see our son Michael

mike says didnt we say no pictures

since he’s out in Utah this weekend pretending to ski, a thing not really in our blood. David grew up with sandlot baseball, and pounding and being pounded by the other kids at the park, while the main pastime for my one sister and me was sneaking into the alley just around the corner from Blue Hill Ave. to inspect this one dead cat as it went through the absorbing transformation from the three-dimensional to something flatter than an old kid glove squashed under somebody’s tires. 

I’m happy because I’m about to sit down and write 14 days’ worth of entries in my diary. (My entries are a lot more interesting, I find, if wait ’til I’m really in the mood for the endeavor and can do the mental levitation that let me look at my last few weeks from the air, so to speak, and thus spot the highlights.)

I’m happy because I just said ‘Screw returning those shoes to Macy’s today. The store will still be there tomorrow when my workday ends.’

I’m happy because I think I might be about to actually vacuum that room I’ve been meaning to vacuum for a month.

I’m happy because we watched that old chestnut Ghostbusters yesterday and I read my three books and stripped the lid to the piano bench for a piano that lives at the ABC house. I’m happy because I got it all sanded and primed and even stained. Now David will help me screw on the lid, I can put on two finish coats and then trot it on over there.

I am not so happy when I remember that I almost learned to play the piano as an adult, together with Michael who was then 11, but quit just as I was getting that itchy feeling in the top of my head when my fingers were starting to know what a note was. We both quit and I’m sad now that we quit, causing the people who gave us the loan of that nice old upright piano to take it back again to give to worthier persons … But the days are getting longer now and who knows but what I’ll go out and buy a little keyboard and have another go at learning a new thing? We learn till we die do we not? I’m happy remembering that truth.

And now, me playing that classic beginner’s piece The Happy Farmer at age six (but why doesn’t that guy in the suit leave my nice pink dress ALONE! 

 

Dear Diary

My job for these last days of 2011: write 21 days’ worth of diary entries. I have to write all these now because I stopped writing altogether on December 12th when a sudden piece of illness popped up in the family and, looking back, I think I just didn’t want to make it any ‘realer’ by writing about it.

The details were just that scary, even for an old Premature Burial fan like me. For those of you too young to remember, Premature Burial was a horror movie about these poor people who everyone THOUGHT were dead  – until exhumation revealed that (a) they were alive alive-o the whole time and (b) they had scratched the daylights out of the inside of their coffin lids.)

Then I didn’t want to write the next day since the details were even scarier,  or the day after that either.

Finally I figured I’d wait until all was resolved and I could set down this scary event alongside other, sunnier events, like the day’s harvest of eavesdropping or the funny insults Old Dave and I had traded during the last car ride.

Anyway, the illness did resolve thank the lord but then it was Christmas and you know how that whole thing is.

You’d think for a daily blogger a 21-day journaling marathon would be easy – and it should be. 

But then I remember what I have learned from reading my mother’s diaries, begun in 1916, and my grandfather’s, begun in 1888. (I know huh? Hard to believe a babe like me can have close kin born so very long ago. In my mind my mom was like 60 when I was born. (In reality she was 41.)

She was irreverent, and funny, and yelled “Gad!” in exasperation six times a day. Pretty colorful in other words. Yet most of her 40 or more diaries aren’t good reading at all.  An entry reading “Went to Mass” just doesn’t cut it, any more than my grandfather’s characteristic entry, “Went to town. Retired at 9:00”  does.

Their most interesting entries? The ones where they’re describing unattractive behaviors in family members. But really even these aren’t so good because in both cases they’re mad as they’re writing them. Or aggrieved. Or fizzing with self-pity. And in all those cases they’re the ones exhibiting unattractive behaviors and I sure don’t want to do that.

I’ll have to get back to you once I get rolling on this. In the meantime maybe you have some ideas. 21 days’ worth of overheard dialogue? The latest knock-knock jokes. Lists of current TV shows? I am OPEN to suggestion here!

My Diary This Year (not really, ha ha)