Wednesday, August 14, 2013

leaving your mark.

I am endlessly fascinated with journals and handwritten letters. I keep my dog-eared, water-stained planners, year to year, just as a sort of diary of the past year's happenings--a reminder of the good and bad, the mundane appointments and dinner plans that sparked hilarious quotes and deep conversations. I buy old post cards at antique stores, just to embrace the memory of strangers' messages from decades ago. I have this innate appreciation and longing for the past--not even mine, necessarily, but just an admiration and respect for the seemingly ho-hum parts of life.

Part of it is derived from wishing I had known my dad's dad better. He lived in Pennsylvania and passed away when I was 19. My relationship with him was fostered through a handful of visits and nostalgic snippets my dad shares from time to time. He was an incredible man--a war veteran and a steadfast provider for his huge family. He put himself through the University of Maryland after marrying my grandmother. I only recently learned he met her in a bar in Wisconsin (!!!), a fact that I love. They went on to have six kids, who were all in one arm of the military at some point, traveled the world and had the best of stories to tell. My Mimi (mom's mom) had a simpler childhood. Her stories were not of world travels, but the glow in her face and sparkle in her eye as she recounted her life was one of my favorite memories of her. Every recalling of a past experience seemed instantly more exhilarating just by the passion and giddiness she exuded when telling it. And now she's gone. They're both gone.

I wish desperately I had written down more about her life. Just to smile back on in the years to come. As time passes, the memories fade--it's an all-too-true part of life. My kids will never know her, and that breaks my heart into a million pieces. I'd love to have something to flip back to, just to be able to give them a sense of how amazingly wonderful of a person she was. And the same for the other people in my life. I'm attempting to be more diligent about chronicling the little things--the incidents that seem trivial or fleeting in their time, but ultimately, are what compose life. My dad is notorious for his stellar one-liners. His resoundingly dry sense of humor just augments his sharp tongue. As I remember the witty retorts he's come up with over the years, I try to plug them into my phone immediately--to be placed in a journal eventually.

Are you familiar with the five-year journal (here, here, here)? This trend of autobiographical prompting feeds my fascination for capturing it all. I haven't bought any of these yet (probably because I have about a dozen notebooks collecting dust as I type--true, sad story), but I love the idea.

Do you have any of these? Do you journal regularly? Are you obsessed with keeping stories alive like I am?


  1. A few years ago I went up to my grandparents' and they pulled out what they had from my great-uncle's time in World War II before being shot down and killed by German anti-aircraft. I took pictures of everything and my brother typed out his journal of his flights on his iPod just so we could have a record of it all.

    I'm also obsessed with journals and letters. I love to read, and one of my favorite things was reading through the journals of L. M. Montgomery, just to get a glimpse of the woman who'd written so many novels I just love.

    I journaled regularly for years but fell out of it in college because I began blogging. And while I'm grateful for the record I have of life online, I far prefer the paper version. I've been journaling more lately because I love the record it keeps for myself and eventually, I imagine, for similarly curious great-nieces and great-nephews, as well as any of my immediate descendants.

  2. I love handwritten anything. I buy stationary and send real, actual notes to friends, just because. For a while, I was keeping a journal fairly regularly, but fell out of it, especially as my blog has grown. I'm now determined to get back into it!

  3. My mother recently sent me my great great aunt's original handwritten DAR application. I'm considering frames it. She also has every letter my grandfather wrote to my grandmother when he was courting her (they met at a army dance, he courted her through letters and some visits then he went to Germany in WW2 before they married). I love it and want to preserve it all!

  4. I have the Q&A five year journal, and if anything particularly amazing happened that day, I jot it down in my planner. I still have all my planners from college in my old room at my mom's :)


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