Friday, June 22, 2012

Me, 40 years back

After re-reading Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret for the Girl Detective's Summer of Shelf Discovery, I decided to be brave and re-read my diary from 7th grade. From the opening "Dear Diary, Today I got my braces" on August 2, 1972, to the "P.S. You are the best diary I've ever kept" on July 8, 1973, when I decided to start writing in the new diary this country mouse bought during the week she spent with her city mouse friend down in Charlotte, it's a daily chronicle of all the blah blah blah you'd expect: the boy who sends mixed messages and the best friend who's sometimes, often, not. That stuff would have bored me to tears if I'd given it more than a passing glance.

(And Margaret would be pleased that I noted every time I had my period.)

What did interest me (outside the fact that this time reading an old diary didn't trigger a moment's worth of depression as has been the case when I've attempted a mere page or two in the past) was in gauging how reliable my overall memories of this time proved to be (dead on the money, for the most part. It's my sister's memory that's often suspect) and in providing some chronological underpinning to particular events that I remembered happening, but not when or in relation to anything else.

As I well remember, I was horse-crazy and  religious (I "rededicate" my life at least twice during the year at revivals and services and worry about my best friend who isn't sure if she believes in God). Fortunately, for the me that I am now, I spend more time talking about riding than I do church. I had a reputation for being "anti-cussing," but I didn't have any issues in the name-calling department (it should go without saying that "my mother is a hypocrite" is a constant refrain throughout the diary). This is the year my aunt teaches me the taunt, "You're a supercilious obnoxious piece of inconvenience and your manners are too bombastic for my sentimental fortification" that stops my classmates in their tracks! The book I was most excited about buying was a dictionary, although I worry a great deal over my copy of Go Ask Alice that I loaned to a classmate and was afraid would not be returned. After reading Anne Frank's diary; my own is renamed--oh ye gods and little fishes--Stormy. As in, Misty's foal, people. I spend a lot of time writing books and plays. I do not suffer quietly when it comes to the infliction upon me that is the 9-year-old neighbor girl that my mother keeps before and after school. I take ceramics down on 10th Street and learn to play the clarinet in school.

More often than not I merely allude to the near-daily fighting that takes places between my mother and my sister instead of dwelling upon it. Even then, I knew I was the only sane person in the family.

I remember well this particular day (click to enlarge):

What I had forgotten: that my dad had to make several trips to Baltimore regarding the mirror-making machines he'd made and sold to a company up there. That my brother had ever had a job down in Alabama for him to quit before moving to Winston-Salem (I asked my sister about this and she doesn't remember it either). That I found a bag of pot in the house on two separate occasions (first time, no one claims it. Second time, my brother says he's holding it for a friend and my mother actually gives it back to him. My sister says she doesn't remember the pot, but at the time she threatens to turn him in). That I somehow have $60 to loan to my sister (I was never given an allowance* and I received a grand total of $5 from various sources for Christmas. I netted only $4.50 babysitting at the end of the school year; how did I ever manage to have such a great sum?) and that my mother often borrows money from me as well.

And I have a tendency to remember two highly different stages in my untreated-but-probably-bipolar brother's life: the one where he's coming home an angry drunk and shooting holes in the wall and the one where's he's obsessively religious. He's quite transitional when I'm in 7th grade. He's arrested for drunk driving, and prone to angry outbursts, but I overhear him telling my mother that he'd broken his ankle the day before our grandfather died and that it was faith-healed (inspired, I attempt to pray away a keloid on my elbow, then rationalize why my prayer's not answered). And he's having religious conversations with religious relatives and borrowing my new tape recorder to record religious services he's attending in Winston.

And I obviously had no qualms about this bit of juvenile delinquency on my own part:

Oh, well. I may have been down with cutting fence put up specifically to keep me and my cousins and friends from cutting through their land, but at least I never shoplifted. And I was no hypocrite like my mother.

And I felt just terrible when I said "shit."

Stefanie took a look at her old diaries this week, too.

*Further reading shows that I was paid an allowance of $10. Perhaps I wasn't paid regularly, and that's why I don't remember it?


  1. Oh Susan, this was wonderful! I am glad I am not the only one who find memory and diary don't always match. I can't say my memory matches any of mine spot on. I never named my diary though, I probably would have if I had read Anne Frank at the age you did but I didn't read her until my 20s. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I don't think any of my diaries still exist. Hope not! I'm surprised I didn't name my diary -- I named or nicknamed everything and everyone else.


"I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time."

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