Reading her journals has not changed my perspective on what person my grandmother is, but it has given me layers. I always knew she was playful, dancing in her chair when I come dancing into the room, or making semi lewd jokes about fireworks, but I’ve also “seen” her playfulness with her high school friends. Impersonating Tarzan or “taking corners on two wheels” in the rumble seat of someone’s car. I knew she was insecure having seen her be quiet and passive, worrying over clothes and impressions the house would make on a guest, but nothing beats insecure like being a teenager. I’ve read her worry that she’ll never find a good husband and lamenting on why she isn’t as popular as her friend.
The best layer to find is how deep and far back her sense of wonder, her ability to be amazed and made happy, goes. She has never been a jaded person, although now she no longer stays up to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. Now she has no desire to travel, mostly because she cannot plot out her next trip to the bathroom, I suspect. But I recently transcribed her trip to Boston and read about her marveling at the size of the city, hearing piano on the radio and being impressed, imagining acquiring an English accent like Spencer Dean, peaking through windows at the boys’ only clubroom, or into the Senior Prom. One of my most favorite passages I’ve read so far is her iceskating on New Year’s day. She writes:
It’s perfect skating by the light of the moon and stars.
She is able to embrace perfection, a word not often used once you grow up but she’s still able to hold wonder in her hand. She stops her whole day to smile at sparrows on the fence post and asks a million shocked and delighted questions when I bring in plants or flowers or harvests from the garden.
All of this makes my task of transcribing all the more important. I angst over whether I should leave in her grammatical errors or not. (Except for her use of the word cause instead of because there aren’t many.) I’d err wholeheartedly towards fidelity, yet, when I show her all I will hear are her corrections of the mistakes. I hear that a lot already because I make enough of my own in the transcription. I began to spell Jeanette’s name correctly, even though in her journal she goes back and forth and rarely spells it “right,” because she kept correcting it and I wanted her to be able to focus on the story her journals were telling.
Some times I can’t read her writing and I take a long time on one passage trying to figure it out. Maybe some small detail will be the key to her memory, like the fact that Drobey writes music, or that Jaime gave her chocolates every Christmas for years, oh how I wish she could remember him, her prom date!, or the properly spelled names of everyone she went to camp with or the name of a town she visited.
The pages of these 80 year old books are layers deeper and deeper into her past, into the variations of who she is, they are layers to show she has always been the same person just that once she was very very young.
Daily Prompt: Layers