July 19th, 2010

Memory Collector

Many people collect things, from paintings, to baseball cards, right down to magnets.

I collect memories. Maybe you do too.

We don’t have to shell out much money for those, although some have cost more than others. The limit is the moon. I’ve been chasing down memories for years, and they are now sitting on porches,watching the sun rise. And I’m thrilled they are remembering, lest I forget.

I’ve laid my hands on black tie memories, champagne corks popping all over pages. There are also those that creak and wail under the weight of sorrow and loss. Life drags us down rutty dirt roads as well as slick glossy highways, and a diary travels them all. Capturing our feelings and writing them down; that’s why we write, to peel back layers of life and hold them up to the light.

Above is a picture of my latest diary, fancier than most, but Audrey Hepburn just spoke to me, so I couldn’t resist.

My first diary was started back in 1995, which puts me at fifteen years worth, and eighteen diaries, minus one year, 1999. That particular diary was lost six months after moving to Texas from Missouri. I’d put it on the back of my car to check the mail before heading to school to wait in the carpool line, where I sometimes made diary entries. Running behind, I jumped in the car, not remembering the diary until a mile or so down the road. We searched high and low, to no avail. Either it had fallen into a muddy ditch, or had landed in someone’s hot little hands. Girlfriends were calling every day to see if I’d found it yet, intrigued with the idea that a man might have discovered the diary and was reading about my life.

I cried.

Ye gad! Every little “for my eyes only” entry waltzed in my memory, some taking a bow, some tripping in front of me, making me cringe. But after the initial shock died down, I had the plot for my novel, The Passion Diary. What would it feel like to have your uncensored thoughts read by a man you’d never met? What would happen if he fell in love with you by your words alone? Not that anyone would after reading mine, but heck, I decided to run with it anyway. How would that woman feel if this man wooed her, keeping her diary a secret, winning her trust and love, and then the secret was exposed by someone else who made it their business to know? The diary is the frame the story hangs on.

Even after losing one, I still keep diaries. My youngest daughter is the only one intrigued by them. For awhile, she bugged me to read entries, but of course I wouldn’t. She said, “You might as well let me read them now. When you’re gone, I’ll get my hands on them!” I told her we might need to have a ceremonial burning at my passing.

But maybe not.

One day, when I’m raisin-faced, and my eyes cloudy with years, I might take those diaries out and read every young memory, the lovely, ugly , and funny, those thoughts dashing in and out of time tunnels, reminding me how much I lived, loved, lost and gained. The far will be near again, the near, nearer.

And, ahem…if someone out there did happen to find my diary, all those years ago, please just stick it in my mailbox, no questions asked.

What about you, do you keep diaries?

8 Responses to “Memory Collector”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    I’ve never written a personal diary. But I did write prayer diaries for years. In those I conversations with God about what was going on and what I needed Him to do for me and others. But I recently destroyed them. I am a super private person and the thought of another reading my private thoughts…no.

    I’m sorry you lost your diary, but think it’s awesome that you got such a wonderful story out of it. BTW was your name and address in the diary? Because that’d be the only way a finder could return it.

  2. Dorraine Says:

    Yes, I do understand the privacy issue. Better than most, I’m afraid. Odds are I’ll let my diaries go at some point, too. A release, if you will, but for now I’ll keep them. I’ve got such detail in them from places I’ve visited, I’ve been able to pull up description and use in my writing.

    Thanks, E. Always try to make that lemonade, but this one threw me for a loop. Yes, my name was on the first page.:-)

  3. Paige von Says:

    Love the new one. I’m not so good at journal keeping in that aspect of things. The idea that at anytime anyone could happen across it is too much for me.

    Think of my brain like Vegas, what happens in there stays in there unless I let it escape …

    on purpose.

  4. Dorraine Says:

    Ha, you never fail to make me look at things differently, Paige! A brain like Vegas. Nice but scary!! :-)

  5. Deanna Schrayer Says:

    Drain, I Love that diary with Audrey Hepburn on it. I’ve always liked her, she’s so elegant.
    I’d like to say I’m sorry you lost that diary so many years ago, but then we wouldn’t have the wonderful story that will be in my hot little hands soon (I hope). :)

    I’ve written in diaries since I was at least 13, and have held nothing back. I still have each and every one, in a huge “memory box” full of just that – memories. I can’t imagine losing one. Oh my gosh, I would be freaking out, just like you were. Because I do have so many secrets in all my diaries, my best friend, who I’d trust with my deepest secrets, has the task of reading them all when I’m gone, and deciding who in my family they should be given to, and which ones should be burned. She looked like she might shoot me when I told her (not asked) that. Can’t say I blame her – that’s A LOT of reading to do!

  6. Dorraine Says:

    Not surprised at all that you keep diaries, Deanna. The writer in you wouldn’t have it otherwise. Not a bad idea entrusting your words to your best friend. I’m sure she was flattered but also aware of what a great responsibility it will be.

    Have you gone back into any of your diaries to pull up details for your current writing projects? They are great for that. I’ve used several things-such as, the memory of time spent in Colorado, to use in Jack Rabbit Moon. Remember Marnie’s dad lived there for awhile? I had kept details of the areas we visited, so it worked well to use.

    Thanks, I can’t wait for you to read the next one. And, yeah, big Hepburn fan here. Just had to have that one!:-)

  7. Deanna Schrayer Says:

    Oh yes, I’ve spent hours and hours flipping through all those memories, and used a few of them that would’ve otherwise been long forgotten for short stories. I have to be careful when I pull the diaries out though. I could literally spend hours reading and not even realize any time at all has passed, kind of like when I go to the library. :)

  8. Dorraine Says:

    Great resource. Glad you use it. Know what you mean about the piddling. One can get lost in all those entries!

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Eleven-year-old Marnie Evans longs to be precious. She wishes on stars for parents who adore her, even though her family is dysfunctional. She also believes that jack rabbits and a boot-wearing Texas angel show her mysterious signs of things to come. Continue Reading

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