Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Diary Dearest

It was the Easter Bunny who brought me my first diary. I was eleven years old (getting a bit too old for the Easter Bunny) and I opened up a side-table drawer to find the long-coveted object: The Judy Blume Diary. This was no ordinary diary – this was a diary for rebels, those who Refused to Be Confined within the limits of a standard-issue page-a-day journal. Instead, this version was divided up into months (oh, the dizzying freedom!) and illustrated with black and white photos captioned with quotations from Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and (my personal favourite) Deenie (how I thrilled to the romance of it when Buddy took Deenie to the movies and tried to feel her up!).

Almost immediately, at this early stage in my career as a diarist, I was confronted with the central dilemma of a recorded life: a diary is a place for secrets, yet these were in all-too-short supply in my limited routine of school, piano lessons, and Explorers (pseudo-Girl-Guide group at the United Church, precursor to the important-sounding C.G.I.T.: Canadian Girls in Training). I did my best to manufacture material, picking fights with my mother so that I could fill those lined pages with bitter invective, but it all rang a bit hollow (my mom was patient, sympathetic, and stubbornly unwilling to provide me with good fodder for my diary). I had to make do with what scandal I could dredge up – weekly charts linking up various girls in my class with members of the opposite sex, and of course the monthly "little raisins" tally, in which I ranked those girls by breast size (coming in, at that stage, a respectable fourth or fifth, a few spots behind Kelly, who hid behind three shirts at school each day to avoid the prying eyes of lustful pre-pubescent boys and nosy girls like me).

I continued to be a prolific diarist throughout high school, filling the pages of a succession of duotangs and spiral notebooks. I became skilled at choosing these, carefully avoiding those hardbound books that wouldn’t lie flat when I sprawled on my stomach across my bed and carefully recorded every word of my conversation with the Inaccessible, Desired Love-Object – and, of course, everything he was wearing, from his mullet to his red Converse hi-tops. (The term "mullet," like "Royal Potty," is a joke all by itself – it saves me the trouble of devising clever witticisms because the mere word, even apart from its context, will often trigger the urge to snicker. And yet I never actually heard the word "mullet" until long after the ’80s were a distant memory – in those days, we just called it really good hair.) I read through some of these old diaries while I was pregnant with the Pie, and rarely have I had a stranger sensation than when I closed the last of my high-school chronicles and found myself cross-legged on my green-and-white Ikea duvet, hugely pregnant and hearing the murmurs of a little Bub asleep in the next room. How did this happen? How did that morbidly introspective teenager wind up here?

There is a gap in the fossil record during the years of my first marriage. There was something profoundly silencing about that particular kind of unhappiness – no fights to record, no volcanic blow-ups or dramatic exits. But marital discord was only part of the problem; much of the difficulty lay in the geography, the architecture of being married. I had no room to hole up in after supper, pen pressed intently into the page. There was no space that was specifically mine in our one-bedroom apartment – only the pervasive privacy of being ignored. I would sit at my desk with my back to then-husband – who had himself retreated behind headphones and a computer game – and try to write, but I had no words to describe my uneasiness and bewilderment, the sense of being simultaneously abandoned and unbearably crowded.

By the time my diary-habit reasserted itself, I had (belatedly) entered the computer age. Gone were the duotangs with their Glue-Stick collages of magazine clippings; in their place was MSWord. By dint of much cutting and pasting, and examining of electronic evidence, I could put together a retrospective analysis of my failed marriage – when exactly things had gone wrong, how exactly those hidden affairs played themselves out on the surface.

The computer has continued to play host to my diaries since my babies have been born, encoding in binary their birth stories, their important stats (including, for far too long, the start and end time of every single nap the Bub took as well as the number and duration of his nighttime wakings). I have felt compelled, however, to print off hard copies. You know – just in case the computer age comes suddenly to an end, and amid the post-apocalyptic chaos and starvation I want to look up exactly how old the Pie was when she started eating rice cereal.

I am equally distrustful of the Internet as a repository of the stories and memories I want to preserve for posterity. One thing I love about blogging is the motivation it gives me to create a permanent record of things I might otherwise forget (as my parents, for instance, appear to have forgotten every useful fact about my childhood). But I always create my posts in Word before I paste them into my blog, not only because of Blogger’s evil predilection for crashing before I can save, but also so that I can print them off and keep them in my hope chest (the cedar chest I bought in my teens because that was the kind of thing that seemed romantic to me in those days), alongside all the other memories I keep there: the academic achievement plaques I busted my butt to win in elementary school, the clipped newspaper photos of Jordie Price (whose name I learned to spell in sign language when I was thirteen), the photograph of me with then-husband on the roller coaster in Las Vegas (one of the few keepsakes I didn’t stow in my parents’ basement). And my diaries – the written evidence of what I’ve done and who I’ve been. The proof that I was here.

23 comments:

Izzy said...

duotangs

lololol...forgot ALL about those!

This was a great post. It motivates me to do what I've been putting off for so long (and for reasons I don't understand). Thanks for sharing and inspiring me :)

kate said...

there's something about journaling and the need to tell our stories that makes this whole blogging thing really fascinating.

and man, i woulda freaked to have an actual, real, judy blume journal. i read "Blubber" like a gazillion times.

Emily said...

What an outstanding post! I thoroughly enjoyed it. But what is a duotang? Yes, I also feel tempted to make paper copies, strange and antithetical. B&P, you truly inspire me. This is an oft overlooked aspect to blogging - the pure diary effect, something for posterity.

Her Bad Mother said...

I would have killed for a Judy Blume Diary.

I stopped keeping a diary/journal when I was about 22, 'round about the time I met Husband, and the angst began a slow but steady retreat (and, began to devote self to academic pursuits in earnest, which meant writing, and not the diary kind.)

I kind of wish that I had, during those years. But now I have blogging, and am making up for it.

lynsalyns said...

I kept a journal from the tender age of 12 until I was almost 28. Mine, too, ended with marriage, but more because I had someone to share those feelings with.

Blogging brought that release and the joy of writing for writing's sake back to my life. I want to remember this time, as trying as it can be for me.

I haven't forgotten your email. Better be ready to read a long response! :)

bubandpie said...

Amy, HBM - Hmmm, this is emerging into a new theory: marriage as the diary-killer (and blogging as the marriage-killer?).

Kate - I think Judy Blume is one of those things everyone in our generation has in common (I saw a couple of references to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret over at Izzy's blog the other day and it got me thinking.)

Izzy, Emily - Duotangs - I didn't google them to see if that's how the word is spelled, and I'm pretty sure I would fail that exercise where you describe in words how to tie your shoe, because words are failing me here. They're those folders that you put your three-ring paper in, with the little metal doo-hickies that open flat to keep the paper from falling out. (Arghh! cannot speak English!)

Mommy off the Record said...

This was a great post! The diaries that you have kept will be so precious to your children when they grow up. They will be true insight into who their mother was. What a treasure it will be if you share some of your writing with them.

On antother note, I have been meaning to print off my blog entries for a while now just in case the Blogger finally dies. This was a reminder that I should get on that or I might not have a diary to share with my kids!

lildb said...

a) you have totally hit on my reason for ceasing to journal, and I never knew exactly why until I read it here. it makes me want to bow low before you.

b) you have such a beautiful ability with our language, in the written form. it makes me feel squishy (the good version).

c) that was lovely.

d) I'm a nerd.

bubandpie said...

MOTR - I'm not entirely sure that my diaries are fit for Bub and Pie's consumption - but perhaps an edited version can be created for them through the power of computers. ;)

lildb - Seriously, I think commenting is your mutant power. I like your posts, and all, but every time I read one of your comments (here or elsewhere) I want to go back and make mine friendlier, and nicer, like yours.

Nancy said...

Ooh, I would have TOTALLY loved a diary that was based on months rather than days as a pre-teen. I would force myself to write daily beginning January 1 of each year and then the habit would peter out around March.

I still have a lot of my spiral-bound journals from high school and college. I can't decide if rereading them now makes me feel sentimental or pained.

Thanks for stopping by my site yesterday. I'm happy to find yours -- you write beautifully.

Susan said...

Oh my goodness. I just spent the last hour reading several of your recent blogs. I laughed and cried. You have such an incredible ability of expressing thoughts. And of course I already knew that. But now I'm thinking, why hasn't she published anything yet?!!! So much of what you write I can relate to and feel so thankful that you've put into words what I've thought/felt but didn't know how to shape into such an eloquent use of language. Or even one that makes any sense once the words leave my mouth! I think YOU should have been on the Baby Show. Other women need to listen to you. Anyways, how on earth am I going to find the time and the patience with dial-up to read everthing you write!!!??? Thanks for being so good with words.
Susan

bubandpie said...

Nancy - Both sentimental and pained is my guess (at least, if you made occasional attempts, as I did, to sound very philosophical and deep.

Susan - (*blushing furiously*) You are so sweet. All I can say is, check out my blogroll - that will help put my status as mom guru into proper perspective.

Mother Bumper said...

I remember my Judy Blume Diary! The rainbow cover and white spiral binding. And the fact that I didn't have to work in the confines of the calendar. I had filed that memory somewhere unreachable until you helped retrieve it. I love your writing Bub&Pie. Thank you for sharing (dang it - I have so much more to say but no time... please just know that I love to read your stuff!).

lildb said...

BubP (if I may shorten it to that, without offending you) - I agree. The funny thing is, I have always had that talent - to suggest that I can do something well, and then when the actual product is rendered, it's kind of *ehhh. not so much.* a little anticlimactic. I have a theory as to why that may be; I am a much better *responder* than I am an inovator. I love responding to others' posts; I can almost always find something to bring to the well-thought-out subjects. But my own ideas and thoughts are so muddied and -- bleccch. They just aren't the beautiful, well-formed, cohesive theses that you all (you, 8hours, Jaelithe, Mommyofftherecord, Halushki, Andrea, etc.) seem to possess a preponderance of talent for creating. I don't know why. Although my theory is that I lack education in that realm. Or that's just my negative view of my own life experiences, b/c while I have a wealth of them, I do not possess a finished education. And I feel that lack quite strongly.

Now I'm sad. And embarrassed for blathering on for so long in your comments. Bleah.

Sorry. :(

p.s. did I mention, I'm off my meds? Argh.

p.p.s. did I also mention, I'm better at responding than inovating? I could *never* have said this stuff at my own site. I'd have opened that stupid page and every word in my head would've shriveled up and died.

please don't pity my pathetic excuses. I need to shut up, now.

lildb said...

what I should've said is, I'm grateful for your really kind words.

'cause I am.

I always feel cozy at your blog. thanks for possessing the word-skill to make me feel that way.

lildb said...

um, final word: innovator, not inovator. too much wine does not a good speller of Debbie make.

*departs quickly, hunched over and red in the face*

bubandpie said...

Gaah! See? I TRY to say something really nice that expresses how I feel, with a jocular little pretend-insult in the middle (because I have this strange idea that an all-out compliment will somehow seem insincere, even though it's not) and I end up making you feel bad! Or not exactly bad, but cozy and loved but STILL GIVING YOURSELF TOO LITTLE CREDIT (I know, I know, you'd rather...).

So what I mean to say is, I wish I had your gift of writing comments that are so real and personal that it makes everybody feel, "Oh I wish she lived next door so I could go over for a cup of tea!" It makes me feel that way, anyway.

(And you know how much I love your blog, right?)

bubandpie said...

Oh, and on the "well-formed, cohesive theses" thing? It's because you are a P. I've been trying to keep my Myers-Briggs obsession in check here, because I sense that no one is interested, but if you're not an INFP then I miss my guess (and I know, because you're a P, you hate being put into categories, but I'm a big J, so I can't help putting people into categories). Anyhow. I'm a J, which means I'm structured (I won't say anal), so my posts always have a clear central idea and often some kind of predictable organizational principle. You are a P, which is where you get all that cool, psychedelic word-play and lateral thinking. It's not a bad thing (I think that HBM must be a bit of a P as well, because how else would all those Greek gods get into her post on sleep deprivation? Oh yeah, maybe it was the sleep deprivation. I don't have her pegged quite yet, but give me time.)

Oh, and I love long comments. Go to town. Or email me!

Di said...

Whoever said "I love long comments"....me too!

Our book group read a book last year in which women from all across America journaled on a particular day. So we read it and the book group members all journaled on August 1 and shared our journals at the book group meeting.

One of the women in the group has journaled consistently since she was 12. She brought a selection of her journals and shared them. At 12, it was things like "Susie was mean to me today." A latere journal had inscrutable dots on particular dates...when we asked her about them she said, "Oh, that meant I had sex that day!" It was fun!

slouching mom said...

Do I ever heart you and lildb. That comment exchange was priceless. I wish we could go for coffee.

(ok, snap out of reverie about you two living in my town)

Deenie. My favorite! Blubber. Second favorite.

flutter said...

You are such a nerd! I love it love it love it!

Jen said...

The Judy Blume diary, you lucky girl. I do not have any of my diaries and looking back that makes me both happy and sad...thanks for the walks down memory lane, they are so similar I feel they could be mine.

I sometimes write my posts in Word first as well...I like having the trail.

Jen said...

Back to say, I also enjoyed the comments from lildb (and yours too B&P), I often think I am a much better commenter and reader than blogger myself. I am more than happy to sit here reading all day.