Journals

“Hi, mom.” I hear my son’s voice as I answer the ringing telephone.

“Where are you?” I ask, realizing he’s in the car, on the road somewhere.

“On my way home from Philly. You know,  band practice. Long day. Two more hours to get back to Enfield.”

“Well, you know I always say, drive safely and watch for the crazy drivers!” He laughs.

“I found something I have to share with you,” I said excitedly. I went on to describe finding several old journals during a basement cleaning and organizing session that morning. I had spent the afternoon lost in reading about travel we’d done in the ’80’s. He was a young teen then. He’s fifty-two now. A man, but still “my boy.”

“Remember that trip to Colorado, going up to Animas Forks and camping on the mountainside?” I jumped into some of the story of that summer trip. We walked all over that mountain exploring old mines and the remnants of a town. Then, only two buildings were left, the mines abandoned.

“Wow, mom, I’d love to read that sometime.” Allen said he’d like to see what he remembers compared to what I wrote back then. 

“I can say this,” I remark, “my memory has left out so many details that it was really fun to relive it with those details filled in. I can almost see him nodding his head in the car as he zips along the highway.

He then reveals, to me, that he found a box of his writing, as he and his wife emptied the last of the storage units for the move into their new home.  He’s been in a band since he was sixteen and keeps notebooks for song ideas, lines that come to him or came to him through the past thirty years.  

“In Philly, we were working on a new album. The first in twenty years.” He sounds excited at the prospect. His creative senses are alive and stimulated.

“Did you find stuff that you could use—-In that box of your writing?” I wanted to know. 

“ I’m working on it, “ he said. “It’s a lot to go through, but there’s good ideas in there.” 

“You know, this seals it. We ARE genetically linked,” I say, laughing. It’s my joke line whenever we click on something at the same time—-a synchronicity that happens fairly frequently.

“It’s pretty cool that we both found remnants of old writing, accumulated through the years and rediscovered this week.” He agrees.  We went on to talk about band stuff, new house stuff and our septic woes. I love that he calls me when traveling. This unclaimed time, I can share with my only child, now a man that holds my heart. 

After I hang up the phone, I go back to the stack of journals and immerse myself in memories of days long gone by. I make mental notes of what I want to share with Allen, and with Barb, my wife. I find sticky notes to mark key passages.

I’m struck by how significant this feels to me. Honoring the past. With distance, making peace with mistakes made along the way. Celebrating triumphs.  It’s a smorgasbord of tasty treats.

And, not insignificantly, it serves up a platter of ideas for future writing.  Why don’t more people journal? I know, I know, It takes time. My argument might be that anything worthwhile takes time. You’ve heard that before. There are lots of arguments that could be made for writing down the things in life that touch us in real ways. Things that ought to be shared. Aspects of our lives that future generations will only know through our written words.

Just ask my friend, author, D. Margaret Hoffman. She has written three books, full of personal essays, that could be read as journal entries. It’s her life on the written pages, for her children and grandchildren to see. Up close and personal. No masks. No front. Real life. There’s something to be said for that. She’s on a mission to get everyone writing “Saving Our Lives.” Check her work out at dmargarethoffman.com and get inspired.

My son’s journal notes and writing turn into song lyrics. Mine, a memoir. Journals are gold mines waiting to be dug into. What will yours hold?

©2022 by Gail Ouimet

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