Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Phyllis' diary

All over the news this week is the rehashing of the events of one year ago. It was then that American troops murdered Osama bin Laden.  It was also the day I recommitted myself to writing.  Though that was definitely not on the news.

For the majority of my life I have been a writer, a journaler.  When Cedar was born I fought, but finally fell into, a guilt-ridden lapse of any writing at all. The lack of the literary in my life lasted for years. I struggled with that guilt constantly, feeling like if ever there was a time that I should be recording my daily life, it was now.  I had a small child who was a challenge and a joy and I wanted to capture and hold on to his sweet innocence. But I couldn't write. I didn't. I wrote occasionally, every few months at best, and eventually, finally let it go.

A year ago my life was as full as ever with Cedar-time, step parenting, housework, and relationship work. I had also discovered a new hobby of studying my family genealogy.  In April I had taken a trip to the midwest to visit relatives and search for family facts and tombstones. In my travels, at our family summer cottage in Michigan, I found my grandmother's diary.

It was a delight to discover.  The book was one of those kinds that has one day per page, but five small sections to cover five years. So, on any given page you can read back over the past five years of that day. As I read through my grandmother's life in the years that led up to her meeting and marrying my grandfather, I found myself coming closer to a woman who died when I was very young and I have always longed to know. 

My grandmother Phyllis loved to write. She was a journalist, writing the Society section of the local Fort Wayne newspaper.  And she never skipped a day in that diary. For five years she wrote down a few short lines each day about the tiniest details of her lunch, or her aching feet, or her girlfriends inviting her to go out.  Eventually the sentences in the diary came to talk of Tom, and her giddy anticipation of his visits. I have no idea whether she continued to write in a diary after her marriage, but she stopped writing for the paper.  Her writing career ended with her falling in love.

I read much of Phyllis' diary and treasured the chance to do so.  It gave me hope that someday, my words may become a gift for some descendant of mine. I loved the format of the book too, and realized that I could not capture the whole of my son's life onto paper, nor did I need to. Instead, I could leave a little of life up to imagination and simply write down a few sentences a day. One story, one moment, one snapshot. 

And so, the day that the world celebrated a death, I began my own renewed celebration of my writing life. 

A year later, after much confusion, growth, and change in myself and the world, I am writing more and better than ever before.  I am not a published writer yet, but I have finally found my path, my passion, and I am pursuing it. After 36 years of seeking, I followed my heart to find my family's past, but ended up finding my own future.

My grandmother Phyllis put down her pen to take up raising babies. But she unknowingly left something behind of her writer self to help me, her granddaughter, pick up my own pen again.  I write for me. I write for my own passion. But as I look back on it all, now I think I write because of her.

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