Last night Elizabeth, on her way to babysit Jenny and Mark’s boys, was searching for a blank sketchbook so that she could show them how to play the monster game (something my family made up when I was a kid). In her hunt, she stumbled across a little rectangular book in my closet and then ran downstairs and said, “Mom, is this your diary?”
Turned out that it was not my diary, but a journal that my dad kept the spring semester of my senior year in high school, when he was my English teacher. He wrote in it, weekly, daily sometimes, and then gave the journal to me as my graduation present; a testament to our time together.
The funny this is that neither of us remember him doing this. It’s hands down the nicest gift I ever received and I didn’t even know it existed or that it was sitting, waiting for me, alone in my room, a slice of my life in the closet.
I have not read the entire journal yet, but I flipped to a page about my Grandma selling her house, the one she raised all of her children in. My dad wrote,
” Grandma Jean told me yesterday that before she left for the closing she lay down on the dining room floor, the house empty of furniture and people and full of memories and imagined what it was like way back in December of 1951 when she moved in. I was almost two. John was four months. My dad told my mom that he’d drive her to Racine to spend the night with her parents and he would come back with friends and Uncle Rollie. She said that after that, it was like leaping through all the years from time to time. (Lying there on that carpet) was an experience that left her smiling. She said the bad times were never bad because, ‘Well, look at us. Here we are!’ It was good to see her so happy .
On the day of the rummage sale I took Nick upstairs to show him where his dad and I played basketball with a rolled up sock. I took him to the other bedroom where John put the weights in my pillowcase. Nick couldn’t help smiling. It was fun to see him try to imagine his dad and uncle as boys, playing and fighting in that house. What are the key moments we’ll remember from the houses we lived in?”
My dad, younger than I am today, wrote this about his mom, who, in this scenario, is my dad’s age today. I was Luke’s age when my dad wrote this. It just doesn’t seem possible that we move through milestones so quickly and that life really is the thing “that happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
As I was doing my usual taxi run after school last week, picking up each kid at their respective locations, Landslide came on the radio, which always makes me cry. Damn you, Stevie Nicks. If the Avett Brothers ever sing that one, it will be the end of me. I changed the radio station, not wanting to get lost in nostalgia and stuck in traffic at the same time. God had other plans though because Little Drummer Boy was playing on the other station and that is the song that the choir sang to our family at the NICU on the day we brought Quinn home from his four month hospital stay. I played my drum for him, I played my best for him…Damn you, Josh Groban.
To me, that treasure of a journal is kind of what my dad must have been trying to do. He was, without really knowing it, feeling Stevie Nicks and Josh Groban simultaneously. “I am getting older, you are growing up, but by writing this now I am playing my drum for you, doing my best for you.”
I probably didn’t really appreciate that journal when my dad gave it to me on my graduation day. He probably guessed that I wouldn’t, but his forty year self probably knew that one day I would be a mom and one day I would love someone as much as he loves me and that I would understand.
One day, I might also understand what it feels like, lying flat in a house that gave kids both roots and wings, to let go of motherhood, to let go of memory, of anxiety, of plans. I will let them go with love and ache and warmth. I will be able to answer Stevie Nick’s question, “Oh mirror in the sky, what is love?”
For now, to me, it seems that love is a string in the shape of a circle, that ties us together, moves us along, and then brings us back home again.