I’ve kept a journal since 1996, when as a six-year-old I was given a student notebook by my mother and assigned daily entries. Mama used my writing to gather spelling words and insight into the mind of her shy, eldest daughter. Writing did not come easily to me, and my earliest writing was tedious. I wrote hesitantly about what I ate and my baby sister, Anna, who I described as having “skin like fresh snow and hair like a baby chick.” Eventually, writing grew natural, and I began keeping private journals outside of school. I filled my pages with song lyrics, poetry, threats, sketches, book reviews, lists, and expositions on Vermont, family life, growing up, and falling in love. The journals I haven’t burned (a move I thought heroically dramatic at the time, but now regret — oh! emotional teenage girls!) span more than ten years and number over two dozen. I keep them in a suitcase bought from a porch sale of one Grace Fern, an ancient resident of Forest Dale, Vermont. Every now and then, I drag out my green suitcase full of journals and read my former thoughts. Below, I’ve collected entries dated December 8th. I’ve never written every, single day — I lack that sort of discipline — which explains the missing years. Enjoy!
I ate soup for lunch then went over to my friend’s house. We played like queens and ate cookies. We said we were “elegant.”
I’m still waiting for the new baby. I hope I get a brother, but I know the baby will be sweet and beautiful and my best friend when we get old.
I went to the Robert Frost Trail. I read a poem called “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and I walked in the deep, deep snow imagining that I was beautiful and calm.
It’s probably about six degrees out. I’m sitting in my little, dead garden between two trees. I can see Mom, HeatherRose, and Anna putting up a swing on the big branch of the red maple above the court-yard. Tonight, Daddy and I are going to search for tracks in Ripton. Silence is golden.
I am at Aunt Beth’s house, and –let’s hear the symphony, folks! forte!– once I’m done with school work, we’re going to make some ornaments. We’re also making Christmas cards with stamps, and making some gifts tags.
I helped Aunt Beth clean the fish tank, too. Gloop! Too bad that sucker fish won’t just suck it all up! Maybe he could get his miniature shark friends to help!
Astrid went to Montana with Julie. We got a bunch of postcards. She’ll be back soon, they say! Yeah! One of the postcards said “some bunny in Indiana loves you.” Tacky but cute and good to hear from my big sister. Hahaha!
I’m sort of catching up on things I’ve been doing. Sorry if it’s not very “insren” — that’s how Anna would say it.
Christmas is coming, and I am so excited! Anna, HRH, and I had our annual meeting early this morning. We planned our Christmas gifts and laughed at each other. We’re giving Mom a picture frame wrapped in birch bark, pressed flowered, and feathers. Home made of course! In the middle there will be a picture of us!
— My writing is very bad today. But, I promise I’m not glum! Hahaha! I’m in a list mood! —
I’m giving Anna a doll bed with a little quilt and pillow made of milkweed down that I gathered outside of the orchard before we closed it down for good. HeatherRose is getting a cross stitch pillow. Josh and Astrid are getting stationery with pressed flowers. Luke is getting food, which kind of bothers me, but he likes my cooking and always has a good appetite, especially if I wash the dishes in his apartment. Heehee!
Best get on to bed. We all feel so lost without Josh and Astrid since they went off to Idaho. We cried so much, and I hid in the chicken coop and kissed my least favorite chicken. It seemed my penance (is that the word?). Me and Daddy cried most of all. They won’t be back for more than a year. They’ll even miss Christmas.
God, please keep Josh and Astrid safe. Give Budly Jense a[my dog] good night and please (!!!) make him leave a little room for his skinny little owner on the bed. Ha!
Give thanks to the Lord forever. Mercies …
If you were to walk into the room I share with my sisters with sound as your only sense, you’d think you were in a time warp. You may possibly assume that some how the decades of the 60’s and 70’s were back with the glass voice of Joni Mitchell reminding you of love and loss and Neil Young bellowing against the “needle and the damage done.” Or, maybe you’d guess that you were sitting in my mother’s room when she was young. A record player as companion. I am my mother’s daughter!
First of all, there’s the death of my regal Grandma Carol. She always made sure I spelled that [Grandma] correctly. Heaven forbid, I grown up and pen “Gramma.” Ta da! Haha! It’s such an awful thing, knowing she’s gone and that she’ll never know my successes or comfort my stumbles, so I think I’ll leave it at the spelling lesson. That way, I can laugh and share a good giggle with memory.
I’ve learned joyfully. I have learned that ability is poorly proven and never fully possessed, that love and passion is to the credit of God. The greatest talent, I learned, is to live. And, to live is the blessing of God, freedom. And, if you have live, GIVE! And, I want to give … joy! I want to be a joy-giver!
Christmas around the corner and, today, all I’ve got for celebration is turkey blood on my fingers (oh, butchering!) and a hairdo styled by freezing rain. My school break is under way and I’ve just learned that a friend is engaged, and I’m reading “Crime and Punishment” and essays by Wendell Berry.” I went skating today, saw old friends. And, on Thursday I work a half day holiday job and drink coffee with a friend home from college in Tennessee.
Tonight, I think I need a new beginning, so with the exhaustion of nursing school, I say: It’s an evening of new beginnings simply because I declare it as such. Marvelous! Time for tea and the easy reading of Agatha Christie with Anna Vi.
10:45 am.Eight degress in the sun. Cold wind and particle snow. Bitter but winter at last!
Another day in the life of Grace Lilly and the continuing count down to the making of a university girl out of a backwoods rebel:
Luke came down for a family visit and a surveying job, blowing in last night around seven o’clock, minutes before a stern northeastern wind. He slept in Mama’s studio (snuggled under his sisters’ pink comforter), but, of course, before bed, he discussed a million silly things and idled on important concepts while chewing hunks of cheese. I sat on the couch knitting Christmas socks; I snatched pieces of Gruyère and stole revelation from my brother’s unshaped speech. We went to bed at ten-thirty, my social appetite pleasantly satisfied.
The character of God continues to delight and astound me.
Tell me, Reader, did you keep journals as a youngster? What do you do with them now? Do you keep them stashed away? Ever read them? I’ve got another plenty of years of writing ahead of me — are old journals worth hanging onto?