I have kept a journal since I was eight years old. My first one was technically a diary and it had Hello Kitty on it complete with lock and tiny key. My first few entries were all about a family trip we took to Atlanta and Florida to see relatives (whom we no longer talk to) and my incredible excitement about getting not only Mork rainbow suspenders, but also a Mork t-shirt that said, “Shazbot!” on it. A shopper even then.
Early into my fourth grade year, I finished that diary and started another and when I filled the last page of that one, I started another. Somewhere along the way, they became journals and I have always been faithful about keeping them. To be honest, they are mostly about the boys and men I have fallen in and out love with (yes, even in third grade) except for an unfortunate period where I was obsessed with football and wrote about Seahawk and Husky games endlessly. Did I really think I would care about those games this many years later?
My senior year in high school, I took a wonderful elective English class called American Women in Literature. It was taught by a tiny yet grand woman named Meta O’Crotty who, when she wasn’t teaching, could always be found outside on the deck of the old house which housed the upper school, smoking and reading. She chose Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits as one of our books to read for that trimester – a book that remains on my top five list of favorites. In it, a woman keeps a journal for her future daughter and one of our assignments was to do the same. By this time, I had been keeping a journal for nine years, so that part came naturally. But thinking of a future daughter reading it changed how I wrote. I didn’t leave anything out or censor what I wrote – I just gained a new consciousness of who a reader might be someday.
And then, many years later, I had two boys. When I found out my second was a boy, I felt a certain sadness and disbelief. It wasn’t so much that I wanted a girl, I just always thought I would have one – I am a girl, why wouldn’t I have a girl? And who will I leave my wedding ring to? And who will read my journals?
Oh those journals. There were years that I wrote a lot and years that I wrote a little. I had certain times of year that I would always write – my birthday, that moment in October when I get my first Thanksgiving food magazine (which signals the start of the holidays for me), New Year’s Eve, and the summer solstice. There is one journal that I periodically think of burning – the one that chronicalled my split from my first husband. It is so painful – and embarrassing – to read that I think I should get rid of it. But it is an important part of my past and so I hang on to it.
Since I had my two boys, and in particular since I had the second one, I have been very bad about journalling. I get so far behind and so much happens that I can’t even fathom sitting down with a pen (a pen!) and writing (writing!) in my little book. My hand cramps just at the thought of it. I have not told my journal that my baby is finally – at 18 months – walking. Or that my older boy has adorable ways of saying some things like “popeyes” for french fries or “big poop” for Winnie the Pooh, or how he is so friendly that he will just go up hug random strangers, especially if they are female and pretty.
Blogging has allowed me to feel like I am still up on my journal – even though I am mostly writing about food – and maybe it will force me back to that most personal space. But for now, as I sit here filled with nostalgia after our trip to Sun Valley, I will write – or type – about it on my blog. At least it goes somewhere where I can read it again someday.
So this. When I was in the hospital after having my second son, sometime in the middle of the night, a nurse brought him down to me from the nursery. She said he was cold and needed me to hold him skin-to-skin to get his temperature up. I was totally groggy – drugged from my c-section – but was immediately alarmed that something might be wrong. I sat up (with assistance) and took that tiny bundle, naked except for the miniscule newborn diaper that he was swimming in, from the nurse and held him against my chest. He slept, I barely breathed while I tried to will warmth into him. An hour later she came and checked and he was fine.
Yesterday this same little bundle woke up from his nap crying. This is unusual for him – he usually wakes up cheerful and full of comments in his own little language peppered with lots of “mommy”. I went up to get him and he kept crying and laying his head on my shoulder, even after I picked him up. My baby is a busy boy, not one to snuggle, so I was surprised that after a moment he didn’t pick up his head and look at me with his beautiful tear-stained face. I sat down with him in his rocking chair and he kept whimpering so I started singing to him. He quieted and sat there with me, head still on my shoulder for another ten minutes or so. I was flooded with the memory of him being a tiny bundle, laying with me skin-on-skin, almost 19 months ago. Then his little curled up body barely covered my half of my upper body. Now he is a huge lump of love – over 30 pounds and tall – and he sprawled out all over my chest, stomach, and halfway down my legs. He felt so heavy to hold – even sitting – but I would have rocked until the end of time, if he had let me.