WHAT TO TELL, WHAT TO TUCK AWAY
Blogging is still new to me. Writing isn’t. I’ve scribbled up journal after journal since I got my hands on my first longed-for “diary”.
It was unpleasantly bright, even to my 1980s eyes, but it had a lock. My thoughts and feelings, mostly lists of “THINGS TO DO TODAY” and “THINGS I WILL DO WHEN I GROW UP” and “FAVORITE THINGS” filled the too-small pages. The lock wasn’t necessary, really. I had no siblings until I was ten, and even then, he didn’t live with me. I locked my feelings away from I-don’t-know-who, because my mother never read my things or rooted through my room. I could have written “I hate Mommy” on notepaper and carpeted the floor with it, and she wouldn’t have read what I wrote. Maybe that’s why I never hated Mommy.
I recorded amazing things, too.
My Gram and I went fishing at the mill pond only once, with a broomstick and yarn and an open safety pin and baloney. We snagged something that pulled the makeshift pole from my hands and took it underwater and out of sight. I went back the next day and the next, alone, to find that red broomstick, but it never surfaced. Gram told me that the little pond was once a well, and people had lost entire cars to its depths. She said some holes have no bottom. We agreed that we were robbed of that stick by a giant turtle-thing.
No one believed our story, but it was true.
I once saw a catfish as big as me. My first husband took me to a narrow creek near a nuclear power plant in central Illinois, where the warm water from the cooling pond sloshed back into the streams that fed it, so that the water never froze. Against the chain-link fence that blocked aquatic life from moving into that warm pond full-time, a fish lay in the shallow water, eating small things that could swim freely between the links of the fence. Our shadows fell across its head, and it flopped itself backward into deeper water with a grunt and slipped away. He hadn’t expected to really see a fish; he had wanted to spook me with a rural legend, but it was true.
If no one talks about amazing things, we lose sight of the benevolent and malevolent things without names that hide in plain sight. This world teems with unbelieved truths.
I’ve continued to write my truths longhand in journals since that first neon-unicorn gold tone-locked model, but my preferences have changed. I like black covers and big pages. Sometimes a spiral is nice, but sometimes a binding will allow the pages to lay open when I walk away. I like that, too. Narrow lines, or none at all, please. Moleskine never lets me down, but some gems turn up in clearance bins for a fraction of the cost of the brand supposedly used by the likes of Hemingway.
The journals get lonely for my thoughts during the school year, and even lonelier now that I’ve opened my head to the internet. Writing for emotional purposes seems to be less necessary when, now, I can just speak my truths out loud to the people who matter.
Those journals, filled with highs and lows, and unbelievables, get dusty on my bookshelf. The highs have become dancing with the Thundergirl or curling up with that beautiful boy or walking alone along the river to wake my sleepy head. The lows have become an urgent call for action or inaction: do something differently, or contract my tentacles from the world and recharge by dropping out for a while.
The unbelievable things still end up in writing. Thunder needs something to tell her people when I am gone. She may as well get her family stories from volumes of half-filled, chicken-scratched books written in first person. Half-filled? Some. Barely used? Yep, a few. I have never reached a last page. Ever. I will, but filling the books already on the shelves will take some time, and I intend to stay far from that clearance bin for a few years.
The first journals burned with the rest of a house’s contents. Another batch, from January 1988 until January 1996, burned in my own back yard while I was away one day. After that day, unseasonably warm and well-suited to an angry little blaze, I learned to hide my truth-filled barely-legible books along with my truths from anyone who might set a match to them.
Now that I live alone with just a Thundergirl who has a solid respect for privacy, I can hide things in plain sight. I don’t disturb her things and she leaves mine alone. This arrangement happened organically, out of shared opinions of what is right and proper.
Some day maybe she’ll want a diary with a lock as badly as I did at eight or nine. They come in neon again–gag, ick, ack.
She already has a special treasure box, worn red velvet with a mirror and faded satin inside, and my little jewelry box. I have no idea what is in them, aside from what she has shown to me: right and proper.
Most of our amazing things we share. Some things don’t need words to tell wonderful stories. That coral came from an island where we swam with dolphins and she was filmed for a commercial. That bottle was dug out of the back yard where I grew up when I was digging a hole to bury two very, very old dogs in the picture beside the bottle. This glass egg came from last summer’s do-free-stuff week, when we went to every cool place within an hour’s drive that sounded like fun, and of course we hit up every gift shop for one perfect thing to remind us of having nothing to do but play.
I realize now that our home is the best journal of this life we share with each other and the people we love. Aw, special blogging moment!
Still, the very moment I run into Bigfoot, it’s going in the book. Meet a celebrity and not realize that I am talking to a celebrity? Journalworthy. Spill something on a celebrity? Yep. Find a huge patch of morel mushrooms this spring? Absolutely, but I’m not telling where.