I’ve been scribbling in notebooks ever since I was a little girl. I got my first diary when I was eight or nine. I wrote about the boys I liked at school. I wrote about the families at church that had new babies.
I wrote about the girls who hurt my feelings when they excluded me from their grade school cliques. The summer I was nine, I made my first trip away from home to go to camp for a week.
I thought this adventure might be worth documenting so just like the intrepid reporter I was, I took along a big green notebook with me and wrote in it every day.
Apparently what interested me most at camp was the food. I carefully chronicled what was served at every meal. A lot of fruit cocktail.
Along with breakfasts of cold cereal and the wonder of an egg salad sandwich for lunch.
I described how after a morning hike through the woods, my fellow campers and I unpacked egg salad sandwiches and ate them by the side of the road. I’m not sure if I was just really hungry or if the sandwich was really that delicious.
All I know is, thanks to my green camp notebook, I can pinpoint the exact moment I discovered that I loved egg salad sandwiches.
I continued to write in my journal through the years, chronicling college, challenges at work, and the comedy of dates with various men through the years.
But not long after my nephew was born, I stopped journaling. I read through my old notebooks and thought some of them made me sound pretty silly. Ridiculously juvenile.
Like recording the phenomenon of egg salad. So I threw some of them out. What if someone were reading that drivel when I wasn't around to explain myself?
But later I came to the realization that childish or worldly-wise, interesting or dull, it was all part of my story. My viewpoint on life. Some of it may have suffered from a skewed perspective. Much of it might have been melodramatic. But all of it is my story.
And if I don’t write it, my voice will be lost. Sort of like my mother’s sister Audrey. She died at age 24, when my mother was just 12. My mother has some memories of her and stories to tell, but Audrey didn’t leave behind any journals or letters.
There’s no way to get to know her. Except through family photos. After she died, her husband remarried but he always kept in touch with my grandmother.
A few years ago, I asked my mother if I could contact his wife who was now in her 70s. I sent her a letter saying I was Audrey’s niece and wondered if she had any photos of her.
She sent me a treasure trove of family photos I hadn’t seen, a Christmas card Audrey had written to her husband, and a tiny envelope with a lock of Audrey’s hair inside. Everyone who knew her said she had beautiful red hair. And there it was, just a bit faded, a lock of her red hair.
So I tell my niece and nephew to tell their stories. Nathan’s official “Author’s Notebook” is filled with stories about ants. Ants that send out scout ants to retrieve a hot dog.
Despite their efforts to spear the bun, Nathan writes that the ants discover they can’t fit the hot dog in their home. I ask him why he writes about ants. He says he doesn’t know. He just likes them.
Devon writes about dogs. She asked me to buy her a journal because the cover had a picture of a girl walking a dog. She draws pictures of dogs in her journal. And she says she jots a few notes about key suspects we read about in the Nancy Drew Notebooks series for young girls.
I think writing about ants and dogs is a nice place to start telling their own stories. And I’ll add my story about egg salad sandwiches to their stories about dogs and ants.
Which after all is one big story of our family. With plenty of chapters still to write.