While transferring Gramma's diaries from storage boxes to a bookcase shelf this morning a piece of folded, aged paper fell from one of the journals. Like the diaries, it was filled with Gramma's handwriting.
Whenever a single sheet of paper distiguishes itself by fluttering away from the pack, I have learned to take notice because more often than not it leads me to an important discovery. I believe, somehow, it is expressing the desire to be read. This sheet was no exception.
The sheet reads as follows:
It is Sept. 30, 1941 and as I sit here filling in the pages marked for each day I can't help wondering what the coming days will bring. May I write only things that go to make Happiness and health and a true understanding from day to day. May I write that work is plentiful, colds and sickness scarce, Happy Reunions with my loved ones are frequent. May I never have to admit to you, dear Diary, that I have failed anyone, especially my loved ones.
We are planning to unite in a Merry Christmas celebration at Dorothy's, may I write it was a success.
Whatever is my duty to write here may I have the honesty and courage to write it truthfully and when I start a New Year may I be able to re-read your pages with glad memories of other days on which the cover closes.
Gramma's diary entries are normally short descriptions of her day-to-day life, so this particular page is unique. Dated about two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, I'm certain that World War II was on her mind. Her regular entry for Sept. 30, 1941 reads:
Tues. Cloudy, trying to rain. Canned chili-sauce and blue plums for Mom. Arnold [note: my dad, age 11] home not feeling well. Barnetts here in eve.
The following day, her sister Jean gave birth to cousin Bill, and Gramma ironed. Nothing in the surrounding pages give a clue as to what prompted her to write the additional page, her life was recorded as usual including commuting between Detroit, Port Huron and the family farm in Petrolia, Ontario; making curtains, shopping at Sears, writing letters to friends and family, cooking and notes about the weather.
Still, it is a beautiful passage, and I'm glad to have found it - or rather, that it found me. I love these diaries as much as I loved my Gramma, they are her. As I read the page, a song about "wishing you were here" was playing on NPR. I feel like Gramma is here with me, and maybe she wanted to remind me of some values that were important to her. Always, her consistent love of writing about her daily life in journals and letters inspires me.
For fun, I looked at her entry for today's date in the same 1941 diary: Beautiful Day. Sun shining and I have to iron. To bed early. It's a beautiful day here today, too, with the sun shining brightly right now. Cool.
Reading ahead ten years, to an entry dated Oct. 22, 1951, the United States is involved in another war, in Korea. She notes that it's a Monday, nice but cloudy, she washed and my mom (who was dating my dad at the time) came over in the evening. The day before, however, on Sunday, Gramma notes that she was disappointed to have missed a call from Dad, who was in the army at the time.
According to her diary entries, he had been drafted on Sept. 4 (Gee, it was tough to tell Arnold that his draft notice came) and left for Fort Custer less than two weeks later on Sept. 13 (A blue day with my Arnie going away.) In the ensuing days she notes his activities as he prepared to leave.
On Sept. 11 she writes that he went to Bill Williams Studio in Highland Park to have his picture taken. Mom has told me this story before, that they both went for portraits (although I remembered incorrectly that it was for Valentine's Day) and now I know the exact date:
With all the Franchot Tone research I do, I often feel that I owe as much devotion to my own family's history. Thanks to Gramma's diaries, I have a plethora of information to draw from. I can, and have, spent hours pouring over her writing, and have yet to get through all the journals. Eventually I will read them all, and one day I'd like to try writing a novel based on her life experiences.