Sunday, March 30, 2008

More Thoughts From the Sisterhood

I'm one of the members of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Journal and journal writing is something I've done since I was a young girl. I thought I'd share with you my own adventures as a young diarist. I got my first diary from my father when I was 12, back in late March 1971. Well, it was a diary in theory anyway. In reality it was a pocket-sized 1969 daily planner from Yashica, Inc. Each page fit 3 or 4 spaces for daily entries, so I had to be economical with my writing -- the size of the lettering was as crucial as how much I could talk about. But from the moment I received it, I wrote in it every single night. I didn't plan to be committed to it - it just happened. I don't know how he knew this was something I would love, but my dad's giving me that little book started a firestorm in me that still blazes today, although it's harder to find time these days to just sit and think and write. Back then I recorded the usual minutiae that is the life of a New York City pre-teen girl living in the projects: who was in the latest issue of 16 Magazine; the latest 45 RPM record I bought; my favorite DJs on WABC (Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie); who got mugged in the building; the unrequited crush I had on the boy upstairs; how the next door neighbor's oldest son OD-ed in the hallway right in front of me; my desperation to turn 13 so I could get my working papers (and technically be a teenager!); and this gem: "Devon R. came to my house today and asked if he could open my bedroom window. He was sweating. His pet monkey threw his pot out his bedroom window (10A) and it landed on my bedroom window (3A), that was why. He came over to get it and made me swear not to tell. I would never tell. Pets aren't supposed to be allowed in the building." Life at the Stephen Wise Towers was occasionally like "Good Times" meets "That 70s Show."

I still have that little Yashica book, and all the subsequent diaries - real, bona fide diaries - in which I wrote every single night from that first night in '71 until around 1982, when I got my own apartment, supported myself with two jobs and suddenly found myself with less time to sit and write down my thoughts and the events of the day. Or was it maybe all the distractions of young adult life and escaping the projects and living in a great neighborhood in Manhattan? On the other hand, even in the aftermath of my father's sudden death in 1974, I didn't leave one page blank in any of my diaries -- that didn't happen until I was 22 and my life veered off into the "real world." I also remember how, sometime after my father died, I really was tempted to burn the journals of my younger self because I thought I sounded like such an idiot. I didn't cut myself any slack for being the very innocent 12-to-15-year-old that I was. I think I must have hated that clueless child because she was protected from knowing tragedy firsthand. It was supposed to happen to other people.I am so glad I didn't give in to the temptation to destroy those diaries. It's not just the personal history, it's also about a place and a time that's gone forever, and without documenting it, a lot of it would have been lost to me. They say one photo is worth a thousand words, but I don't recall any photographers showing up to document Devon retrieving his dime bag from my windowsill. Time alters memory and memory fades, but the written word is forever. Even in the Sisterhood's diary, I'll often try to mention things that are current but outside our inner lives, just to give it a context in time and place. I feel so very privileged to be part of the Sisterhood project and it's just so exciting and amazing to bear witness as our lives evolve and the three of us braid all the joy, shock, love, recipes, gripes, disappointments, revelations, worry, and anticipation of all things, fantastic and mundane, in our lives.

Maggie B.

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