My high school best friend just discovered she kept a diary during two years of our high school time. My friend’s mom found the diary in her attic recently. We had dinner the other night and she pulled out the record of those years for us to peruse.
I had to admit (as she did) that I only vaguely remembered her impeccably written and detailed descriptions of crushes, day-to-day class room happenings, dances, parties, jobs and life with parents. Every few pages, I’d read something that jolted me back to high school life, and each time it made me wonder who I was then and how I had changed so much in these intervening 30 years.
KDM’s observations were full of passion, emotion and exuberance, highlighting the intensity with which we experienced our world then. And it was clearly our world — today we wonder how we could have been so involved in what we now consider mundane sorts of issues. At one point in her diary, KDM wrote that she missed me and explained why. My family lived in the city and her family in the suburbs, but one that was really only five miles or so from my house. In those days, or at least in my family and my neighborhood, the suburbs seemed foreign and miles away. No one went to the suburbs. I couldn’t take the bus there, and since I didn’t have a license, there was no way for KDM and I to visit each other during the summer. I had a job, and she worked, too, putting even more pressure on our summer time. She wrote in the diary that we’d been writing letters to each other during the summer, and that we talked recently on the phone. It was that conversation that prompted her to note how we missed each other.
I wonder how life for my own children will be different when it comes to keeping in touch with friends in during the summer. KDM and I didn’t have Facebook, cell phones, email or any other form of electronic communication. Our families had house phones, but use of the family phone was limited (my dad put a lock on the phone in our house to keep the bills to a minimum). So we wrote letters to each other and mailed them! I have a shoe box full of letters from high school and college, and I am sure KDM has something equivalent. What will happen when friends and lovers no longer write letters? How will we remember our young selves, or old friends and lovers? How will history document the daily lives of the famous and not so famous without personal correspondence records?
I suppose I should dig up those letters to see what I can learn about my own past — to see what my memory has temporarily hidden.
I learned from KDM’s diary that I had forgotten much of what had happened — well, maybe not completely forgotten, since reading the diary brought memories that had been buried to the fore. Reading the diary reminded me of my purpose in blogging, even. Blogging is the diary that I never kept — it is my record of experiences and thoughts about the mundane and the special, and it will be my reminder when stories fade from memory. I didn’t keep a diary when I was a kid, and I know that when my family gets together to tell stories, I sometimes have no memory of the stories being told, or I remember it quite differently, or I have my own memories that no one else shares. Even in the writing, I know I am altering the experience as I reflect upon it, but at least I am also recording it, making it part of the archive of this segment of my life.
When we were in Vietnam, I was sure that I would remember each moment, but even some of those moments have faded with time. It is true that some moments of my life are etched indelibly in memory, but it is also true that we have to make choices about what we remember and what we forget. The recording and writing, the documenting of experience, allows us more choice, more ability to come back again to memories that perhaps otherwise might be long forgotten.
KDM reminded me that when we were in Paris, she kept notebook of what we did and saw, with the intention of writing something more detailed later. She dutifully filled her pages when we were in France, but never got around to fleshing out the details after our return. Perhaps we’ve just given ourselves a post-high school homework assignment.