I have kept a journal since I was a child. My first one was small and had little bears holding a basket of flowers on it. My nani got it for me. It seemed impossibly thick, full of pages. But I filled each one of them.
All told, I have at least 16 journals full of my ramblings (most are totally full, but some were abandoned after filling 25 to 50 percent of it). An embarrassing amount of those ramblings are about boys. Oh, I thought about boys a lot. All the time. All the goddamn time. And I worked out my thoughts in the pages of my journals.
The older I got, the less I used the journals, though they could always be relied upon to help me sleep. Often, if I’m experiencing a night of insomnia, writing down whatever it is that is on my mind will help the slumber to come.
The past few years has been the least active journaling time in my life, and that bugs the crap out of me. Jeff hardly appears in my journal’s pages at all. Granted, I do write less when I’m happy (isn’t that true of all artists? I swear, we create more when we are angry or confused or working something out), but this is the stuff I want to remember, not that time when I wasn’t allowed to go to the movies with a cute boy in the 10th grade.
But lately, I’ve wondered if my lack of writing has been, at least in some small part, due to my actual journal.
As someone who adores journals — the empty pages waiting for my writing, the wonder of what will fill them, the beautiful covers — I never get to buy them. Because as any writer knows, people like to buy you journals. Which is so sweet, and so very thoughtful. But … I wanna buy my own journal!! (she says, whining like a child.) And my most recent one is full of meaning. When my aunt Nancy died of breast cancer in 2005, my mom got a box or two of her things. In them was a journal a friend had given her. It was empty except for the inscription in the front:
Nancy — This is to celebrate your life this year — & to many more to come. Love, Gayle.
(Yes, those words kill me every time I read them. How can they not?)
I was ecstatic to start to write in it. I was never close to Aunt Nancy, but I felt as though, when I wrote in it, I would be writing to her. It’s a shame we weren’t close, because she was a cool, cool lady. I have few, but vivid memories of her:
- Growing up, I was very close to my cousin Tracy, Aunt Nancy’s daughter. We’d have slumber parties and scare the piss out of ourselves at night by talking too much about Bloody Mary in the mirror. After Aunt Nancy would read us a story, one out of a Precious Moments book, and would tuck us in. Within 20 minutes, she’d be back in the room, screaming at us to go to bed. (In retrospect, maybe she should have been reading us this.)
- Aunt Nancy loved music, and I have a snippet of a memory of riding in her car with Tracy and Matchbox 20’s first album playing. She sung along to “Damn” at the top of her voice.
- Shortly before she died (a year? two years before?) I went shopping with her and my mom. We each had armfuls of clothes, and we crowded into the handicap dressing room. As we changed, I noticed an enormous lump in her breast. I thought, “Jesus Christ, is that what breast cancer looks like???” I always thought the lumps were small and hard to find, but this thing was sticking out of her skin by at least 2 inches. My mom caught me looking and said, “Jac, that’s her port.” It was how she received her medicine — tubes hooked up to the implanted port. It was not the cancer. I was one of those “Ohhhhh!” moments that made everyone laugh. Mom had looked at my face and knew exactly what I was thinking, and that’s one of the awesome mother-daughter things she can do. Tracy doesn’t have that anymore. She’s only 31; she was 23 when Aunt Nancy died. Aunt Nancy only met one of her grandchildren. Between Tracy and her brother, there are now four, one step granddaughter, one grandbaby one the way.
So yes, every time I write in Aunt Nancy’s journal, I feel closer to a woman I was never very close to.
But, you see, the thing is … I can’t write in the thing. Maybe this is something only another person who journals would understand, but some journals just aren’t fun to write in. It’s something about the line spacing and the texture of the paper, something about how flat, or non flat, the journal lays when you open it.
I’ve forced myself through it for nearly two years, and barely made a dent in the thing — maybe 1/4 of it has writing in it. A year of that two was our frickin’ engagement, and I have virtually nothing from that time.
Friday, Jeff and I did a Barnes & Noble run. As I was looking at the journals, I caught sight of a beautiful, bright one that looked like a water color painting. It said, “Be filled with joy,” and it was covered in colorful flowers.
When I opened it, it had the kind of binding that allowed it to lay completely flat, and it was wide ruled. But … that cover. I couldn’t stop looking at it. It reminded me of The Wheatfield, a gorgeous art print shop on Etsy. So I started to look for a cover credit. There, on the inside back page, said “Artwork (c) Katie Daisy.”
Now, that’s a name you don’t forget. It’s also The Wheatfield artist. Naturally, the journal had to become mine.
I always feel guilty when I give up on a journal, leaving pages and pages of empty lines thought-less. But it’s OK. I know what it means to me … and I can appreciate the importance of actually wanting to write in a journal this year, my first of married life.