Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Resolution for You

As I greet another new year, I vow to continue recording my experiences, adventures, and observations of everyday life. Not everyone is interested in sitting down and writing what he/she feels may take up a lot of time. I'm a firm believer everyone should try to make a habit of maintaining a journal. A composition book does just fine. Typing on the computer is a better way if handwriting has become a chore. Of course, most of you who are reading this are bloggers, who believe in doing this very thing. The excuse that one doesn't write well for such a project is making excuses. Write as you speak. Nothing fancy, no heavy vocabulary. Using the internet, which records for posterity, is one way of being sure that the words aren’t lost in some bank box, shoe box stored at home, or in your trunk in the attic.

In my Documents is a folder I label “Writings.” Some topics have two sentences; others pages, still others have paragraphs. What is revealed are for the future enjoyment of my adult children when they are too old to remember much of what happened in their lives. They’ll be introduced to people I’ve met who made a difference in my world, rationing and air raids during World War II, my grandparents whom they never met, joyous birthdays, Christmases, and summer trips. Some minds diminish as they grow older and finer points of these happy (and sometimes sad) times are forgotten. But not when there is written confirmation.

Recently I bought a tape recorder. I do my most creative thinking driving to and from destinations. Short ones to the grocery store; longer ones to the other side of town. Nevertheless, I’ve lost thoughts, ideas, contacts I wanted to record because I couldn’t remember later what had floated through my mind as I wrestled with traffic. The tape recorder will have my voice, something easy to forget by a son or daughter as my existence grows faint.

Home movies also record important events. But they don't substitute for a journal, but supplement the written word. Some journalists add photos, clippings, ticket stubs to important events--all these are wonderful and leaves a colorful history to be treasured. Likewise with family history.

A few months ago I found my mother’s 1938 diary.It is approximately 4”x6”. She wrote something within the three lines marked for recording . Some entries were short phrases; other entries had significant informtion. By reading the entire year I discovered how my mother thought that year, what she did, whom she saw, how she felt on special or ordinary days.

There was little money in 1938. The United States was struggling from the Depression of 1928. Since most people we knew were in the same situation, life dealt nearly everyone the same problems Mother expressed at times the sadness that she couldn't buy a new dress or additional groceries to feed the continuous company that arrived on her doorstep. She never wrote that life has passed her by or was unfair. She possessed optimism, as several times she wrote: “But that’s ok. “ or “We’ll do better next time.“ It is that optimism that Sis and I remember about our mother when she met obstacles in her path.

Her precious words are important to us today. She took the time to write even the mundane everyday chores she faced, the movies she and I saw (and we saw several a week at 5 cents a ticket)and who our neighbors were. I learned that I first attended the local movie theatre’s “Kiddie Matinee” that year, that my sister was born without much fanfare, that the death of our grandmother ripped the heart of her youngest daughter.

While my parents enjoyed retirement and were alert, I presented each a composition book with instructions of “Write about your life.” Daddy immediately scratched his history within days, even adding an Addendum. Mother wrote about her life before marriage. When they came to live with us in Madison, I plied them with questions about what they’d not written. Daddy told about the entertainment groups that traveled along country lanes and roads, performing on a make-shift stage from the back of their wagon. He explained their simple costumes, the songs and skits they performed. I handed him our old tape recorder one day at the breakfast table and Daddy became the actor, mocking the announcer at one of those performances, introducing the performer--himself-- who sang every verse of some of the old songs, just as though they had been played for an audience. If he could have danced--he would have.

Until you read or hear recorded memorable events composed by your own parents, siblings, or other relatives do you understand the importance of the written and oral word. For this reason I implore all of you readers to think seriously about writing or recording your own experiences for the sake of those who come after you. Writing a blog doesn’t tell the entire story of your life. Developing further material for your family is as important as the box filled with an odd assortment of photos, letters, and documents you bury in your backyard to be found many years later.

Fifty years from now there'll be laughter and tears from your grown children as they read about family adventures you took the time to detail in writing.

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