Friday, January 17, 2014

Knowing What to Throw Away and Knowing What to Keep

The other day I stood outside my closet looking in and said to myself, "This is pathetic".  And it was. Our closet is the biggest one in the house. The other two are small. Very small. You would think having the biggest closet would be a tremendous blessing.

Actually it's just a tremendous job.

This is why: There is no room in anyone else's closet. This is the indisputable truth. So everything that has to go anywhere, of course, goes in ours.

 "Where should I put this, Mom?", they say. And I look at "this" thoughtfully, and say. "Put it in my closet, I guess."

They never ever argue with this answer. That is the one upside of this scenario. The natives are completely happy with everything going in my closet.

But the results, after multiple months of this, are not pretty.

So I stood there looking at all the Stuff and I said to myself,  "This is ridiculous. There is no way we need all this Stuff." I labeled trash bags. "Goodwill" "Give to somebody" "Pitch" And I started hauling stuff out of there.

In the process I pulled out a sizable container filled nearly to the brim with letters and diaries. The letters were the ones the Chief and I exchanged when we were dating. We lived hundreds of miles apart. Calling long distance was expensive. Cell phones and e-mail hadn't emerged on the landscape. These were the olden days. We were lucky we weren't confined to sending smoke signals.

And my diaries! Dear and blessed repository for the overflow of my teenage heart.
I pulled the container out and pushed it in a vacant spot on the floor beside the dresser. My closet called.

But the diaries called louder.

I opened one and started reading. Cobwebs draped so many of those memories. Some of them lay entirely dormant, and I strained to remember people and activities that at the time they were penned had needed no introduction or explanation. Other times, good old friends and old familiar places came back to life.

I read how Mother and I played tennis in the mornings before we each went to work, she, to teach school, me, to my job at a publishing company. She nearly always beat me despite being 44 years my senior. The skills she had developed as the tennis single's champion in college trounced any agility edge I may have had. What fun we had!

I read about Dixie who disappeared into thin air, and magically reappeared on Christmas eve.
About my sister Kristin, who has always been the more industrious of the two of us, making deals with me that in essence extracted more work out of me than I would have otherwise produced. She was good for me. She still is.
I read about the stream of friends who called, and dropped by. The girl-friend drama. The boys who figured in somehow.

And the one who hung the evening star in my sky and upon whom the sun rose and set. From one diary to the next, year after year, he was featured heavily, if not in reality, in my dreams.

Suddenly, I was 17 again. There was no closet.

The Chief came home and he started reading them. He has always, since his first night-long diary-reading marathon a few days before our wedding, been a great fan of me keeping a diary. He settled himself against the headboard of our bed and began reading, a perpetual smile in his eyes. "You were already nuts at 17." he said presently. And a little while later..."I am certainly glad I didn't meet you after you were already married."

He must not have gotten to the place where I had, after much anguish of heart, determined to be available as long as he was.

Not long hence, after spending the long New Year's Eve drinking Pepsi and playing Settlers of Catan, we welcomed the New Year with open arms and sanguine hopes. (We're giving it the benefit of every doubt.) And then, like a Normal Person, I went to bed. To sleep. The Chief went to bed too. But not to sleep. He sat against the head-board again and read diaries.  Every ninety seconds or so he would start to laugh, and read me excerpts. At one point his tone was laced with perplexity, "My name doesn't even show up in this one till about half-way through." He said.
"Well!" I replied. "You never made any moves." Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.
"If I had had any idea!" he said. "If you had given me the least glimmer of a smile, even once, I would've had something to go on."

"Do you realize it's quarter of two??" I asked from the recesses of my feather pillow. He laughed and kept reading.

I quit keeping a diary when the natives were young. It's hard, when you're a young mom, to retain enough internal resources till the end of the day to be able to commit the day's events to paper. At that stage of your life it's a supreme victory to have kept everyone clothed and fed, and reasonably happy. If you've done it, you understand. If you haven't, you never will entirely.

Life is crazy when the natives are little. Unpredictable. Fun. Unexpected. Disastrous. Hilarious. But crazy.

I would call my mother on any given day to tell her the latest thing, and she would laugh in the most rewarding fashion, and say, "RHON! You better be writing this stuff down!"

I should have. But I didn't. I wish I had. Because if it's not written down, you forget. You really do. Maybe not the big things. But a million priceless little things; they are lost forever.

Today communication opportunities explode on the horizon like fireworks against a night sky. Facebook. Twitter. Texting. E-mails...we type out the details of our lives and share them with the people we know, and many we don't. But in 25 years, where will they be? What will we have? In the end, they are as fleeting as smoke signals.

This year, I will keep a diary again. I will.  There is no point in mourning the lost years. They are gone. But I have this day. This year. These wonderfully everyday life experiences. This stuff, unlike most of the Stuff that accumulates in my closet, becomes dearer with the passing of time. These are the treasures of tomorrow.

And maybe....someday....they will wheel my chair adjacent to the Chief's and he will read to me again. About how on New Year's Eve, 2013, we played Settlers of Catan till midnight, and how he read to me from my diaries till nearly 2 AM while I tried in vain to sleep. And he will laugh. And I will too. And after awhile I will say, "Babe, do you realize it's 8 o'clock? It's way past time for your medication".

And he will laugh again. And keep reading.

                          *       *       *       *       *       *

My sister, Kristin, the industrious one, designed an extra nice journal. Actually, she designed a journal, a one-year diary and a three-year diary. Vision Publishers published them for her and they did a lovely job, as they do with everything. In addition to having beautiful hard covers, and an inspirational scripture verse at the bottom of each page, they have thoughtful features inside. There's an appendix in the back to record the page numbers of significant events so you can locate them quickly. There are also sections headed "Family, Home, Friends", "Church, School", "Work, Hobbies, Miscellaneous" where you can record special events themselves, both for ease of retrieval and so you can expand upon a noteworthy occasion without overwhelming the confines of your daily entry allowance.

The one-year diary provides you with one full page per day, and keeps a year's events neatly contained to one book.


The three-year diary gives you 1/3 of a page per day. This works well for persons who like to touch the highlights and enjoy quickly comparing what happened on this years's date with last year's.
 The journal is undivided by date, allowing you to write as much or as little per day as you please, or to skip days, if you tend toward writing only occasionally. Or if you prefer a book for recording your thoughts, more than life events, a journal is perfect.

I have the journal. I can seldom stuff one-day's-worth of life onto one page. And I skip days sometimes, even when I am keeping one regularly.

 I love my journal! It doesn't have a whole lot in it yet, but at the end of the year, it will be brimming with life and memories...for our own enjoyment, and for the enjoyment of our children, and maybe theirs'... if it doesn't get lost in someone's closet.

Don't you want one too?  Yes! I know you do! So enter to win a free one! My sister is giving away a diary or journal, to whomever wins this snazzy easy-to-enter contest! So enter! Just leave a comment below. Any comment! And if you would like one and don't win one, you can order one here.

 Keep one yourself. And maybe give one as a gift to a child or teen in your life. A diary is a safe place to unload your heart, hone writing skills, and record your life events, unlike some of the current options out there.
And it will become more valuable with time. I promise.             

This contest will end at noon on Monday, February 10, 2014 EST. If you wish to enter and have trouble doing so, e-mail me and I will gladly enter for you!