The nightstand next to my bed overflows with unread books. The latest bestsellers, paperback sci-fi novels, manuals on how to publish your first book or how to use your new digital camera. Cleaning it off the other day, a small red book got my attention. My grandmother’s One Year Diary for 1961-1962.
When I first found it in my father’s possessions, I was fascinated. Perhaps her writing would hold some key to the family secrets I discovered shortly before my father’s death. I eagerly curled up in bed that night and began to read.
What I found out quickly was that Grandma Lily was diligent at recording the temperature each morning, what birds she saw in the yard, what letters arrived that day and details of what they ate.
Here I was expecting a five-course meal of family drama and got the plain buttered toast of daily life instead. Disappointment does not begin to cover my feelings at the time as I buried the book in my nightstand.
It is only now, two years later, as I flip through that small red diary that I realize how wrong I was, how much I should have appreciated this glimpse into her daily life.
Lily’s entries are sweet and often nostalgic. Some of the wording confuses me. What does it mean to mangle clothes? I look that one up online, happy to stumble across a new word.
Her short posts also speak to love of family. Reading this one now, I can’t help but tear up. My father had to quit college when he was young and start work, and it was a sore spot for him through the years as he was laid off or not hired for better educated candidates. “Good” was all she needed to write to summarize her pride that he wasn’t going to quit.
Her many entries mentioning mountain trout make me laugh out loud. At a recent upscale business dinner, there was trout on the menu and the client suggested it to me. It made me think of childhood meals in Chipita Park which were filled with eating trout and venison, or in my case, not eating trout and venison. I was a picky eater and Grandma would try to tempt me to no avail.
But they loved it. And the way she writes of it in the diary, they thought of it as a delicacy. How bratty and entitled I must have sounded to them, two post-WWI immigrants, to turn down something they thought was a wonderful gift.
At least I have this gift. The little red diary has provided a window into her life. I can’t wait to read more.