The secrets hidden inside a diary

Published 9:10 pm Saturday, October 13, 2012

When I was little, I thought that keeping a diary was just so utterly cool. I wanted to have all kinds of deep, dark secrets that I could pour out onto the pages of my diary. I wanted to have one of those padded cloth-covered ones, in pink please, and of course let us not forget the lock and key.
I got that little diary I wanted so desperately — one Christmas or birthday I cannot remember which. True to form, my perfectionist ways got the better of me.
I worried about what I would write, as the dailiness of my 7-year-old life seemed just not good enough for a book with a lock and a key. So, I embellished the events of my day, made them a bit more colorful, just in case someone might steal my diary and figure out a way to pick the lock. Once opened, I didn’t want to let the reader down.
Of course a pencil just wouldn’t cut it, I needed a pen, and in those days a 7-year-old was not encouraged to use a pen for anything. I “borrowed” one of my mothers ink pens, the kind that had colored ink cartridges that were interchangeable. Of course, I hadn’t a clue what I was doing with it, so the pen splattered ink all over that pink diary and that was the end of the diary. It became the evidence to my having borrowed and subsequently broken that pen.
I tried at various times in my life to keep a diary or journal of sorts, but inevitably I would find the same issues arise. My tales in the book were boring to me, my handwriting not pretty enough and my pen never fluid enough. So each and every time I started a diary, it only made it, at most, a few weeks. I didn’t find the writing cathartic in any way and it was more of a chore than anything else. It served no real purpose.
Fast forward 33 years, and my 7-year-old daughter has her own, pink, cloth-covered diary with a lock and key. She asked me to put it somewhere safe, safe from those prying eyes that might want to steal a glimpse of her deepest, darkest secrets, aka, her brother. I obliged with a smile on my face and told her to put it on my desk, as that is the black abyss and nothing ever finds it’s way out of there.
After placing her diary in its safe place, she trotted off with a smile on her face.  Before she could bust me sneaking a peak, my daughter said, “Mama, you can read my diary if you want, there isn’t anything special in it or secret or anything like that.  It’s just the stuff I do every day. You know 7-year-old stuff.  It only seems important cause there is a lock and key on it.”
“Well, if it’s just 7-year-old stuff, why are you so intent on hiding it and locking it up?” I said.
She looked at me like I was born yesterday and said, “Mama, I just have it to annoy (her brother) Robert.”
I was so hard on myself when I was 7, and had huge literary expectations for that diary, but my daughter sees her diary differently. It is a place to put down the boring stuff of her 7-year-old life and annoy the pants off her brother. Her diary isn’t for show, and she could not care less if her handwriting is neat or not; that thought never crossed her mind. The pleasure she gets from keeping it is hers alone, she isn’t worried about pleasing anyone else.
We are so much alike, my daughter and I, but she ends up in a different place than I do, a healthier place (even when she is tormenting her brother). She gets “it” in ways I never did at her age. I am so thankful for that, and for all she is teaching me about life and myself in general.
A Yankee with a Southern soul, Gillian Pollock is a wife, mother of two ever-challenging children and director of Christian Formation at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.