Tag Archives: Life events

Dear Diary….

Not too hard to figure out today’s topic, is it? Many of you know – because I’ve mentioned it ad nauseum – that I’m a lifelong diarist. It’s what first spurned me on to be a fiction writer. My childhood was so rife with strife that I used my diary to invent stories about girls who had adventures, loving families, who were smart and pretty and liked. Stories and characters that were so different from me. Mixed into the pages of those stories were actual diary entries about my life at the time.

I’m 57 years old and I still write in my diary most days.

I was about 6 when I got my first diary as a birthday gift.

I can’t remember who gifted it to me but it was one of those old girly-girl kinds with the lock and key. Of course, the lock broke within a week and I lost the key ( hey – I was  6!) so everything I wrote was open to viewing if my mother ever found it. She probably did because she was a world-class snoop. Anyway. The diary had about 120 pages and at 6 I filled those up within a few months. At 6 my penmanship was huge and one, brief entry could take up most of a page.

Fast forward to the teen years.

I’d evolved from the cutsie diary to a more angst-filled one. I’d doodle for hours about things that happened to me and in the world, about how I felt at the time (fat and lonely, mostly), and I still wrote stories about other girls who were not fat, lonely and unhappy; who had friends and boyfriends and were popular in school. The entires were pages upon pages, and since my penmanship was now indicative of a teenager, I was able to write more on the page. Emotions ran rampant throughout these diaries. Negative self-worth, anxiety about weight, feeling as if I didn’t belong anywhere because I was so different. I also started chronically the major events of the day that were unfolding during this time as a footprint of history. Events like Kent State, the Pentagon Papers, President Nixon and impeachment, the bicentennial, the first test tube baby. Emotions ran high across the pages. I was a girl who felt adrift in a world that was changing so rapidly I couldn’t keep up. I didn’t even know how to.

I left home for college and the diaries from those years are full of ramblings about crazy diets, all night study sessions, my flirtations with alcohol and unhealthy life choices, and my desire to make a difference in the world as a nurse. I devoted ten pages to when President Reagan was shot, detailing where I was ( in clinical) and what I was doing when the news broke (washing a comatose patient). My writing voice was getting stronger with every entry, more individualized, more…me,  and I could see a real progression in the fictional stories I added. I could also see the change in me as a person. From introverted and shy, the kind who never spoke her truth or gave a voice to her feelings, to strong and capable. An activist for change. A young woman who wanted better in all aspects of her life. ( I am woman, hear me Roar!)

When I was engaged in the process of getting married (at 27 ) my diary writing entries from that year are full of anticipation, expectation, and a unease. Would I be a good wife? Mother? Would I lose myself in the process of joining with another? There were no stable marriages/relationships in my family history. Everyone divorced, cheated on one another, drank and was generally miserable. Would I be able to break that mold? Would I know how to?

 

Then, when I had my daughter, I stopped writing in my own diary and now devoted journals to her. I documented every aspect, every hour, every milestone of her growing years.

       

She laughs to this day when she sees that I have a scrapbook and coincidal diary for every year of her life from birth until she graduated from college.

 

This is the time in my life I started putting all that lifelong storytelling to use. I began writing for magazines about motherhood and the nursing profession. It wasn’t fiction, it was real life, but the storytelling lessons I’d utilized since that very first diary came to full fruition and served me well.

I still write in my diary most days, only now that term has changed, like the times, and it’s called a journal. It even has a verb attached to it, as in “I’m journaling today.” Gone are the plain lock and key diary varieties, now replaced with inspirational covers and daily motivational saying on the pages.

I could use my computer to journal. There are about a thousand apps for journaling and diary entries, but I don’t. I’m old school when it comes to recording my thoughts, desires, dreams. I like the feel of a pen scratching across the pages of a book of my own. I like seeing how my thoughts, ideas, hell, even my penmanship (!) has changed over the decades.

I’d like to think that someday my grandchildren and their children will read what I’ve documented, get a feel for the person I was from a child to an adult. I like to think that my diary entries, the chronicling of a space in time, was relevant…interesting…worthwhile.

I’d like to believe that everything I’ve archived and recorded could – and will – in some way, give a greater understanding of the life I’ve lead.

 

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Elvis and Me

I try not to think too much about my childhood because it was…intense. And disturbing. And very lonely.

But, in the spirit of this challenge, I’m going to pluck a good memory out of the old storage banks of my aging mind.

For my twelfth birthday, my mother wanted to do something special. I had no friends, so a party wasn’t feasible. I don’t think at that time in my life she was talking to any of our relatives, so again, no family get-together was going to happen to celebrate my big day. She decided – and I don’t know how or why – to get tickets for me, she, and my step-father to see Elvis Presley perform at Madison Square Garden in NYC.

The King was on his comeback tour and my mother had been a fan in her teens. Strangely, I was too! I was a fan of his movies, his lively music, even his bless-from-God good looks. They didn’t call him “KING” for nothing!

We were on an exceedingly tight budget as I remember from those days, and my mother had to save for 6 months to pay for the tickets. 6 months. The tickets she was able to afford were the least expensive ones, at $12.50 each.  6 months to save a few cents or a dollar a week from her grocery shopping, using coupons to wiggle every penny she could to pay the $37.50 for the tickets. That should tell you how financially strapped we were. This was 1972.

Anyway…

She scrimped and saved and the big day finally came. We hopped the ferry from Staten Island, which was .25 cents per person each way ( so another $1.50 added to the budget) then took the subway uptown to 34th street. Believe it or not, I can’t remember how much a subway token was back then. It was a Saturday night show, so the Garden was packed. We were in the second to the last row in the last section of rows in the entire building. I could almost touch the Garden’s ceiling!  I couldn’t even see the stage. It looked like a minuscule postage stamp from our seats. There was no jumbotron so people like us could see Elvis projected in full form – it hadn’t been invented yet, can you imagine? You can’t go to any kind of venue now where they don’t have a jumbotron or two…or four.

Anyway…

We walked to our seats ( and it was a helluva walk!) settled down and waited for the show to start. No leftover funds for things like popcorn or souvenirs, but I didn’t care. I was at my very first concert and it was the King of Rock-n-Roll! My 12-year-old self was super jazzed. The lights dimmed, the crowd started to clap, and the music started.

It’s impossible to tell you how excited I was. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him. Perfectly. Up to the day he died,  the man had a voice the Gods of music gifted to him. Deep and rich and perfect. At 12 I was too young to think of it as a sexy, purely masculine voice. At 57, I’m remembering it as just that. A hot blast of smoke and heat, raw and primal. God, I loved that man!

For over two hours Elvis sang, flirted with the audience, played a few instruments and generally made this the happiest birthday I’d ever had – and the happiest I’d have for the next decade and a half. Intense childhood, remember? (Teen years were worse.)

 

Anyway…

That’s about the happiest memory I have from my childhood and it was a doozy! Five years later the King would be dead. Generations of fans to come could only know him through the memories of his music, films, a few videos.  But I’ll always be able to say I saw him live. I saw the King of Rock-n-Roll. I experienced a little bit of musical history at a time when music and books where the only good things in my life.

Since this is part of blog hop, stop by some of the other author blogs below and read about their happy childhood memories.

 

 

 

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