Monday, March 4, 2013

Finding Mom's Journals

There is only one pillow in my dad's bed.  He sleeps on her side now.  The covers - two random blankets - look more bachelor-ish than the lovely color-coordinated bedspreads Mom used to pick out.  The bed is made, meticulously straight, showing years of training from Dad's German mother, and then reinforcement more from the army.  It makes a smooth work surface, for today we are sorting.

There are five white banker's boxes lined up across the middle of my dad's bed: one for me and each of my four brothers.  At the end of the bed are four more.  Dad's box is overflowing; Mom's is nearly full; the box for Dad's parents has half more to go, and the paperbox lid holds pictures and calendars from the family growing up.

Dad brings a large box from Mom's office, I pull out the comfortable chair for him to sit on, and we sort.  We smile and laugh and show each other the papers before filing them neatly in one of the boxes.  Dad lingers over old pictures then half turns, arms stretching out, before he pulls back and shakes his head.  "I want to show these to her, to say 'Remember this?'" he says sheepishly, "but I keep forgetting she's not there."  And then more quietly, "It seems like she should be."

When Jay died, there weren't an awful lot of things to go through.  Mom has boxes and boxes of papers.  I know she lived much longer, but I've come to realize that her papers are the memories of a mother:  stained recipes of family-friendly foods, yellowed newspaper clippings of her father, painted handprints of a toddler, Mother's Day cards from her grandchildren, an old construction paper love note from an adoring child, curls from the first haircut gently wrapped in a sandwich baggie.  This, mixed in with mortgage statements and old utility bills and fading pictures and organized binders of financial information.

The last few things in the box were three old binders.  The first contained notes from a college course she took - mimeographed outlines bleeding purple onto her scripted notes.  The second binder was part of a journal she wrote when she attended Girl's State in the early '60s.  But the third binder was the jackpot: several spiral-bound notebooks filled with Mom's college years.  They contained a daily record of her girlish dreams and activities, as well as her time living in Europe with her brother's family. 

Just opening the notebook to any random page lets me feel of Mom's love for life - although in a definitely more coquettish way than I, as a daughter, ever saw.  This entry, dated "May 5, Sunday," reads,

It's my anniversary - 2 years ago I received my first kiss.

The rest of the short record from that day include notes about five different boys.  Five!  And in the margin is scrawled, "Elaine thinks Eldon likes me." and "Eldon went with Jeff - I ironed his shirt."

Can't wait to read more and find Mom again!

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