Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Family Stories, Journaling: What Ties Them Together

I come from a long family line of readers. 

My grandfather was rarely seen without a book in his lap, or by his chair. Even when he left his small town to join the Army and go into World War II, he brought along no fewer than two of his favorite hardcover books. Those books carry, to this day, notes of who he was, where he was, and how the book should be returned should it be lost. They have scraps of paper with his handwriting on them - quotes and thoughts and notations. 

Both of my parents enjoyed reading from young ages. My mother especially enjoyed drawing and writing - much like her daughter would take to, as well. My father had scores of books lining nearly every room in his old farm house. While he’d never write in a book, he’d take tiny notes while he read and tuck the papers inside for later reference. It was a type of journal-keeping, really. Memories that one could go back to when it was time to revisit that book. He also was, and is, a master letter-writer. Everyone enjoys getting a letter from my father, which is full of the observations from the woods, the sky and small-town life. 

Myself, we were taught to journal in grade school. I remember resisting as I didn’t like the idea of anyone else reading private thoughts. Thus, the pages were stuck to stories about my cats and the weather. I’d later journal throughout junior high and high school. While it is cringe-worthy now, I’d like to think that all those years of writing at least somewhat kept me sharp towards my ultimate dream - writing novels. I much preferred creative writing to journals, where I could have the freedom to speak as someone else.

My sister was a good journal-writer, however. She had a true passion for poetry, and wrote it well. She could express herself with ease on her diary pages, and she was glad to share them. I envied her skill at writing down her thoughts every week, her flourishing pens and illustrations lining the margins. My sister also was a passionate reader. Her books didn’t match up on shelves like Dad and mines, but rather, they scattered in room in towering piles. Categories only she knew the system to. 

As a child, I had once asked my dad what he wanted for his birthday. He’s told me to write or draw him something. At the time, I did not like that answer. I’d wanted him to have something he truly wanted - like a candy bar or a deck of cards. I didn’t think anything could make would rival that which could be bought from a store. But I listened to him, and I illustrated and wrote a short story about our dog. After that, it became a sort of tradition. Every birthday, Father’s Day and Christmas, I would write or draw something for my dad. A painting, a story, a drawing. Thus, from the time I was about 8 to the time I am now…in my 30s, Dad has a vast collection of my words and art. 

It is a lovely family history, and a tribute of love for not only books and the written word, but also each other that exists in all these gifts, hardcover books and shelves that we all still keep. 

Happy Reading!

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