I just read a wonderful post that explains why I fall so easily into the cliche of being more reflective this time of year.
In this post The Beauty Along the Road writes:
One of my favorite things to do in the liminal space between winter solstice and the first few weeks of a brand new year is reflecting on the year that has passed and visioning the year that is to come.
Liminal refers to that transition place between the past (what was) and entering a new space (what’s next) – a time of waiting, and not yet knowing.
This liminal space holds the promise of transformation, if we allow it to do its magic.
This validated why I have been so thoughtful about, among other things, the real reasons and consequences of this blog and of reading Babu’s diaries. Even if I had zero views on a post, even if I wasn’t getting all the beautiful comments from strangers from around the world about this blog, I’d still do it for me. As you all well know, I’m addicted to this project. Therefore, I continue to follow through even though I know the risks.
Something really bubbled to the surface as I was transcribing some things today. The danger of all of this. Of even just reading these diaries. I stepped into this family a very long time before I stepped into this project, (a decade and a half there abouts,) and I had heard the family myths and anecdotes, heard plenty about people still here and people gone. I also picked up much more then what people said, how they said it, the look in their eyes – or how their eyes rolled – when talking about certain people, tensions in rooms where the wrong people and topics combined, and I was very aware of the gaps left where things weren’t talked about.
I revealed the secret in yesterday’s post that Jakey is the man Babu marries, the man who fathered four children, the grandfather to my husband although they never got to meet. (Sorry for the spoiler.) This man is legend. Streets and schools are named after him. Well, one street and one school. He is the reason my husband joined the air force. He is the reason for the hushed, reverent tones when one of the children talk about him and, very rarely, about his death. He passed away when they were still very young and they all still call him “Daddy.” Babu misses him greatly every day. Long before her mind began to slip she revealed to me that she cries every day over him.
His memory is untouchable. And so are Babu’s parent’s. And to me, so is hers.
But what if…
Friday, August 11th, 1939
Lately I’m getting skeptical about Jake and I getting along. I think we’d scrap too much. As I’ve known all along, he doesn’t have much respect for girls. I really would like to know what he thinks of me.
But what if…
Saturday, August 12th, 1939
I wonder so much if Jakey and I would get along all the time. He hurts me so often by things he says. Tonight it seemed he took it for granted we were to wed some day.
To be honest, I fully expect myths and reputations to be shattered. No one can live up to the standards we place on our parents. His memory, talk of him-pristine. He has reached the level of a super hero, a saint.
And to further my point, yesterday he showed up in the newspaper being remembered for being a hometown hero and we didn’t even know that was going to be published.
But what if Babu, in truth, had a difficult marriage? What if she never gets over this concern, this skepticism about him? The view of the past will change, but so will the present. How will it change the perfect way people who knew him talk of him? How would it change people’s perception when everyone talks their pristine, reverent talk of him?
And what about Babu? Maybe for the pure reason that she is still here, she’s colored as something not always so nice, or conversely, someone just as untouchable as “Jakey.” it all depends on who you speak with in this family. Will I continue reading to reveal her imperfections? Neglect as a mother? Angry as a wife? Selfish as a person?
I have written before about being memory’s gatekeeper. I meant it then as protecting Babu from reliving the bad times, both the ones she remembers clearly, the ones she misremembers, and the ones she creates. Just like I did yesterday when I did not show her the article about her husband. I am a gatekeeper of secrets, too. None so far have been revealed but that might be yet to come I have already seen how memory doesn’t match with history. Babu tells me her parents were perfect, she was only hit once, when, in fact, I’ve read of many arguments and more than one slap across the face. But it doesn’t matter, the truth of all of this is not in the minute details, that minute details that I have a rare and strange look in on, but the sentiment that rises in us when reminded of that person. We are our sums, not our parts. I firmly believe that. We can make individual mistakes yet we have a whole life to live. It is about how we heal those mistakes, how we learn from them, and how all our good and bad averages out.
When we say things like: “She was a kind woman,” she was not always kind. When we say: “He was a good man,” he was not always good. Here I am delving into all the parts, picking apart the parts.
I think it’s possible that I could reveal some hidden truths, sure. If I do, I don’t think they’ll really matter. I think it’s much more likely that I will find that she was a kind woman, he was a good man, Babu’s parents were amazing, all the way through. Even in passages like the ones I read about Jakey in August of 1939 there is love, frightened, insecure love, but the start of something that will grow. I don’t believe that I will find anything to change the way I think about any of these people but I do now that I will find plenty that will break my heart.
I will be the gatekeeper of all I read in these pages. I will be honest with you now, I won’t always be honest. I’ll keep things back, if I need to.
Even still, the truth is:
She was more than a mother, a house keeper, a wife.
He was more than a father or a general.
Babu’s parents were more than just parents or factory workers.
I like to think reading these diaries is the best way to get to know a person but it isn’t. Taking care of her is.