Do you keep a diary or have you ever kept a diary? These days, it is known as “journaling.” As a young person, I kept several diaries through the years, the ones with the small keyhole to slip the strap into and the tiny key to unlock when you wanted. That was to keep others from invading your privacy; the lock kept no one out who was determined to see what was divulged among the pages, especially a younger sibling, such as my brother, who waited until I moved away to school to see what he could discover. I had to finally forgive him, but it wasn’t easy.
Journaling is important to the writer and any future reader. I’ve said before that our history has been handed down through generations by those patient and knowledgeable enough to take the time to make records of everything as we know it today. All this has become easier, of course, with almost everyone owning a computer and with answers at our fingertips.
In one of my latest columns, I mentioned sifting through accumulations of ‘stuff’ and finding treasures hidden among them. I found an old wirebound blue notebook that my grandmother, James Margaret Pullen (Mama), had filled by writing about her life. Her journal began June 15, 1969, ending in late 1974, due to poor eyesight. I mentioned having some tapes she made continuing her journal verbally. She started the journal lamenting that she wished she had not waited so late to start recording her life.
Her journal was not many pages; I read the whole notebook in one sitting. Reading her stories, a few I’d heard before, I felt as if she were with me. My grandmother and I were very close and I knew her very well. Let’s just say, I could read between her lines! But, being around someone and having daily conversations, is quite different than reading something they have written from their memories and deepest thoughts. It puts the writer and everyone concerned in a different perspective.
I will share a short entry with you, in her words, that shows the theme (or schemes) that ran throughout Mama and Mason’s (Granddaddy) 62 years together: “One time, I traded cars – didn’t say anything about it. In about 6 weeks, the Pontiac place called me, said we have your car over at Cordele. I had a terrible cold, I told the salesman I didn’t know when I could pick it up – I had to break the news gently. When he (Mason) came in to lunch and we were eating. I said, ‘Mason, from the news, the Russians are acting up and I’ve decided we would live it up as long as we could and I traded cars. I have a pretty Catalina Pontiac in Cordele.’ He didn’t even answer. When he was finished (eating), he looked at me and smiled, said, ‘Are you going to get your car this evening?’ I told him I was too sick. He laughed and went on back to work. I think he had ‘learned’ me at last.”
I wouldn’t give anything for being able to see my grandparents in this way. What a treasure for me. And, this was just one of her stories. I was around my grandparents enough to experience first-hand the way they managed to hold a marriage together those 62 years. She did go get that Catalina and it was in that pretty new car that Mama taught me to drive. I put the first dent in that car and her response was, “Well, every new car needs its first love dent!”
Try putting a notebook nearby at home for your thoughts. If nothing else, it helps to pen your trials and your gratitude each day. One day you may thank yourself, I know your family would! Do not wait too late.
For my simple little notebook with the left-handed slanted words telling me stories from long ago, again, I say, “Thank you Mama.”
Jimmie recently retired from Henry Co. Senior Services in Stockbridge, where she managed Hidden Valley Senior Center and resided for 38 years. She plans to use her new found time writing (for The Times) and enjoying life!