A few years ago, I unearthed dozens of diaries kept by women on my mother’s side of the family dating back to the late 1800s. I’d known for many years that these diaries existed–I’d moved the boxes a few times–but not until recently did I realize how precious the little time capsules were. This realization was perhaps rooted in an awareness of how precious my own life is–as each year goes by faster and faster, I have less and less time to learn more about my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
Also, ironically, I’ve been striving for many years now to help people share their songs and stories (through Soundfalls shows, workshops, circles), but right here under my nose were fascinating, unshared, stories from my very own family!
Thanks to my mother, I was allowed to borrow a handful of the diaries to take home.
My interest in the diaries was initially pure, open-minded, curiosity. But as I've been journeying through them, a whole world of connection has been opening up to me! I’ve begun to see myself in the pages, and to hear them so closely that it’s almost as though they are talking directly to me. I am also seeing more clearly why I am the way I am, and why I was raised the way I was raised. I can stop wondering about so many things, and just see things as they are.
A conundrum, though, is that I’m ending up with more questions than answers! Why did these women write in the first place? Who was their audience then, and who did they hope it to be? Were they hoping that someday the ideas would be rediscovered? Why did my family hang on to the diaries for so many years? What are our responsibilities toward their writings?
Furthermore, I doubt we can even answer these questions for ourselves. I keep diaries, as do my daughter and sisters, so what's going to happen to them when we die? Why do we do it in the first place? Is it simply in our blood? Do we store our secrets and feelings away with no intention to share, only for our descendants to have to lug them around from home to home forever into eternity? Or, are we somehow practicing for the right moment when we do share? Or something in between?
How is this journey into my family's diaries changing me?