Sunday, January 25, 2009
Keeping a Journal
Today Steven, who posts on the blog, Projections, wrote the entry in Ronni Bennett's blog Time Goes By. His subject was on writing a journal and that has prompted me to write my own thoughts on the subject.
It's strange where inspiration comes from, isn't it? I would never have thought of this subject had I not read Steven's post.
Currently, I am wading through a Journal that my Great Grandmother wrote. I believe she had not been married long when she started it because her five children are never mentioned. It is slow going because, although her penmanship is beautiful, the ink has faded to a pale brown and some entries are gone and can never be recovered. Even the entries that are legible are straining my eyes as I try to decipher them. The other thing that makes it difficult is the size. The Journal is about the size of a deck of cards and the writing is very small. I am making good use of my magnifying glass.
It would be worthwhile to surmount the reading difficulties if I were discovering her thoughts and learning about the events of her life. Unfortunately, she was writing it for herself without any thought to posterity. People are never identified and places are left to the imagination.
As an example, she tells about visiting Brother Al and Carrie being very ill. Since I know that her oldest child was named Carrie (my Grandmother) I was puzzled as to why Carrie was living with Al. Carrie eventually died from whatever her ailment might have been. At that time the Journal sadly explained that Carrie was a child. She was, therefore, not my Grandmother. (Was my grandmother named after her?) I then assumed she may have been Brother Al's child. That would make her my Great Grandmother's Niece . Later on in the Journal I discovered that Al came to live with my Great Grandparents for a time and he was only 19 years old. So my assumptions had to be adjusted once more.
The daily entries usually start out, "This was a pleasant day." or "Today was not pleasant." This is normally followed by her activities of the day as, "I cleaned house this morning and sewed on Carrie's dress this afternoon." In other words, the Journal is a diary and not at all illuminating about the people mentioned. I learned that a child named Clyde died shortly after they held the funeral for Carrie. These sad events are related without knowing who Clyde was and whose child he was. Was he a neighbor's child, a relative, a friend's child? What did he die from? The Journal provides more questions than answers. I am at sea about the relationships of the people named except when they are directly related to my Great Grandmother. She mentions going to see Ma and Pa, but does not tell where they lived.
Anyone who write their memories should write them as if they were explaining the events to a stranger. It will be strangers who read them, even if that person is a descendant of the author.
This has made me think I should go back and edit the Memoirs I wrote years ago. Would the person reading them know who I was talking about and where the event took place? I know who the people are, but will someone 100 years in the future?
I am also going to add photographs to my Memoirs so the future reader will have a better picture of the people I am writing about. I also need to investigate how to archive my Memoirs so they will endure.
It is a daunting task, but one I owe to my family. Even my children may find some surprises when they read my story. At least I hope they don't say, "Mom, we've heard that story a zillion times. (" One of the Beatitudes for Seniors is, "Blessed are they who never say, you've told that story twice today.")
It is true that when an elder dies, a library dies with them. Lets not let it happen to our children and grandchildren. Log on to your Word Processor and get busy!