Last night I was reading in bed. I kept reading long past the time I should have turned out the light. I knew parts of the story but I just had to keep reading to find out more. There were questions I wanted to have answered. What was this book?
I was reading the diary my mother wrote in 1959. In parts the hand writing is small and difficult to read, not helped by my short sightedness, inherited from both parents. The ink is smudged in places but I had to keep reading.
I was a pre schooler in 1959. There are mentions of my antics and sometimes less-than-perfect behaviour. But hey, I was just a little kid, I didn't mean to make life stressful for my Mum.
Mum writes about us getting a kitten. I remember Jimmy as a grown cat but don't remember him as a kitten. I have a few photos of him as an adult cat but none of him as a kitten. In those pre-digital days people took far fewer photos.
It was interesting to find out how we got Jimmy and that for some time he didn't have a name. Many of these things wouldn't interest someone who wasn't part of the family at that time but these details are of great interest to me.
I am glad my mother wrote diaries and kept a few of them. Over the years I have kept a diary from time to time but tend not to include as much detail as Mum did.
There are a number of reasons a person may decide to keep a personal diary. These include -
so there is a record of what a person achieved
as an account of daily life
for the interest of the person's children and grandchildren
for the writer to look back at in later times
as a release of emotional stress
to help the writer sort out their thoughts
as a way of fostering creativity
to get into the habit of daily writing
Counsellors and therapists sometimes encourage clients to keep a diary or journal to improve their mental health. Research has shown as few as three to five sessions of journalling for between 15 and 20 minutes can help the writer deal with stressful events.
I think my mother wrote her diaries simply as a record of daily events. I don't think they had any therapeutic intent. I don't know if Mum had any idea how much her daughter would value the diaries she held onto and how much I would learn about her from reading them.
These days fewer people keep hard copy diaries of the events of their lives. I wonder how many such diaries will be around in fifty or sixty years from now for future generations to read.
# The Past