Currently, I am listening to my daughter talk to her Boppa (my dad) in the guest room. He flew in this evening. She weaseled her way out of her own room to go sleep in the guest room with him so he “won’t be lonely”. HA! She’s asking him how he met Emmy (my momma). And then about her Aunt Leah’s birth. And her Mommy’s birth. And the new baby that my sister is having soon and suggesting baby names (Jackson, by the way).
This is the long con – ask as many questions as possible of the adult about anything you can think of until the adult eventually falls asleep, then you’re free to get up and read or do whatever you want. She doesn’t realize my dad/her Boppa knows this game because I invented it about 25 years ago. Keep trying, kid – he’ll outlast you. He always outlasted me once he caught on. Although, the more I hear the tiredness in his voice from his flight, I think maybe she has a fighting chance. Unfortunately for her, I’m not jet lagged like Dad is seeing as how I live here and if she wears him down, she still has her parents to get through and we’re not as easily manipulated (most nights…).
When Dad was just settled in the guest room tonight and I was saying goodnight, I remembered an old diary of my mother’s from when she was younger that I have. It got mixed in with my things when we were cleaning up and clearing out my childhood home to put on the market. They ended up not selling but I then had a bunch of stuff to pass on to my daughter from my own childhood, which is always really cool. However, this diary ended up in my house. I never had the chance to actually read it because it always felt improper to do so – despite it being my momma, it was her diary. Her thoughts. Her dreams and hopes and whatnot. I couldn’t just tread on that. It was in Abby’s room for awhile and I caught her writing in it. She got a scolding and the journal was moved to the guest room with other important books we own. If I could get a job at a used bookstore, I think I might faint from happiness – so that’s on my to-do list because being a writer and working in a book store is kind of like a priest working in a church…it makes sense.
Now? Abby has conned Dad into reading her a story. Oh Dad…you’ve gotten to be such a softy. I would have NEVER gotten away with this when I was her age. Grandkids have way more leverage, it seems. He’s reading her Eloise (her choice) which is appropriate because she’s definitely Eloise made over. Life imitating art imitating life.
I’ve pulled out this diary now because, with Dad here, it came up in conversation because I finally got up the nerve to tell one of them I had it. “It’s from the 70s or something and has some German postcards in it,” I told Dad. “Oh, that’s from when we were dating and went to Germany, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen.”
Uh, what? No one tells me shit. I had no clue they went there 45 years ago…but they did. I started reading it. Sue me. The fact that she and Dad were in Germany (or heading that way) when she started this diary and the fact that Dad is here to pick up Abby for a trip to Germany with Momma on the 3rd of this month didn’t escape my notice. Something was compelling me to read it and read it NOW. Because somehow it felt more significant to do so now. I said goodnight to Dad (knowing full well he’d have a 6 year old visitor to keep him busy with conversation within the hour).
That’s where this gets truly interesting – because now that I’m reading this 1972 trip to Germany, I become more and more acutely aware that 45 years later, my parents are taking my child. They’re going to go to the same places they went before but with my kid. It makes me insanely happy. Happy that they’re around 45 years later to take her. Happy that she’s learning German at her German immersion school in Anchorage, Alaska, of all places. Moreover, happy that life has converged in such a way that I just remembered this journal after so many years and it just so happens to contain a narrative about a country my dad and momma visited – now Dad is here with the intent to take Abby to said country. It’s all too much, honestly. I know I’m repeating the Germany connection and the reason for that is that I guess it’s just so weird to me to comprehend without repetition.
It was beautiful. It was so awesome to read words from my mother, then 24 years old, and hear about her trip to Germany. It was funny to hear about the stiff German stewardesses (they weren’t called flight attendants back then, folks) and emotional to hear about seeing her Oma and Opa, who were about 75 at the time, knowing full well that would be the last time she’d see them alive. Therein also contained what they did and saw, the food they ate, the company they had, and how generally jet lagged they were but they pushed through because they were young and invincible. She writes beautifully, as she always has.
Then it stops, mid sentence suddenly after my dad heads on to Copenhagen and picks up again in January 1st, 1974. She and Dad are then living in New York and have been married for about almost a year (1/20/73 – Nixon’s Inauguration and the joke is they picked that date because they wanted something happy to happen on that day). It talks about a fuel crisis, a bad economy and political climate and her job at the United Nations German Consulate in New York City. She paints a picture of intending to go skating at Central Park with her best friend, Beverly, but locking their keys in the car and having to go back to their apartment for the other set while my dad guarded the car. It also talks about the Plaza, which kind of tickles me because Dad is currently reading the Eloise book to Abby (who is 6) about a little 6 year old girl that lives at the Plaza that I’ve been a huge fan of since I was 6 years old. Now Abby likes it. She’s her mother’s daughter.
Maybe I’m putting too much significance on things and things are just lining up because they’re common themes…I don’t know. But it’s poetic, too. It means something to me. Dad is still reading the book to Abby – she knew which book to pick to ensure maximum awake time – crafty little kid.
I read more through the journal and then it stops again, because like myself, my momma is never able to keep a normal journal for more than a week or so. I have a nice collection of my own journals in my closet – about 6 of them – all leather bound and beautiful and half-finished. Sam calls it my weird collection of journals and surmises I like the nostalgia and look of a nice journal more than I actually enjoy writing in it. I don’t hate journaling – I love it – but I get busy and forget. I have my momma’s attention span, it would seem. Bullet journaling has been pretty helpful and something I’ve stuck with for awhile, oddly enough, and I just bought my momma and dad their own for their upcoming Germany trip.
And then the journal picks up again in 1994. It’s one entry and that’s it. It’s actually a pretty huge departure from the writing from the 24 year old but in 1994, most people were pretty angry. Next page, I see more familiar handwriting but it isn’t my momma’s…it’s mine. From 2007. I don’t remember writing this but I tell her that: a). I haven’t read her journal other than to ascertain that it’s hers b). To finish what she started c). That I love her even though she drives me insane most of the time. I was 22 when I wrote that and I don’t remember any of it.
I think part of this is due to the fact that I had a traumatic injury in 2009 and the doctors said that the slight knock to the head plus the massive amount of drugs they put me on (codeine and morphine, mainly) would cause some memory loss. It picks back up because apparently Momma took what I said to heart and wrote quite a bit in 2007 – enough to fill 5 more pages. And then it stops again.
A couple of pages past that is a few letters Abby wrote in it to practice writing before I caught her and moved the book to the guest room. God help me, I think she’s going to be a writer, too – she’s constantly jotting things down, whether they make sense or not. The genes are strong in this family.
Now, my current obsession is to photograph these pages and transcribe them (with my momma’s permission) and send this journal on with Dad so Momma can continue it on her trip with my dad and daughter and continue the story… It starts off with the title page “Margaret Anne Hester – 1972 – ______” It’s time to fill that blank year in the front with 2017 and the remaining blank pages with adventures of their trip to Germany.
Even if nothing comes of any of this and the journal never gets “finished”, it’s still cool to read my momma’s words. Namely, that she wanted to be a writer. It’s a common theme throughout – no matter what job she’s in or what she’s doing, she feels this compelling urge to write. She became a prosecutor/lawyer in the 1980s and still retained her love and passion for the written word amidst the endless legal briefings and case notes. I always knew my momma was a good writer, that she loves it, and we have talked about writing a lot over the years but it’s cool to see just how deeply passionate she was and still is. It’s heartening to know she had the same fears and frustrations about the craft, too. No matter where she is in life, she always has writing. I hope to be just like her in a lot of ways – but mainly in that. I might not ever be published or be any kind of success at it, but it’s something I feel I have to do, if only for my own sanity.
“I want to write. Fine. But I don’t. Mr. Logue[sic] said if one has something to write, something one must write, nothing in the world will prevent it. Nothing. I guess I don’t have much to say, really, although things are eternally on my mind, swimming around, weaving in and out and rising and falling – always. I sometimes think they’re good but I get so excited about them I soon tire of them. I burn them up in my head before they’re ever released on paper. I hope that if my new life organizational plan works, I’ll find I have more time to actually get these ideas onto paper before I can destroy them.” – Margaret Anne Hester Kannensohn, Jan. 6, 1974
It doesn’t matter how old you are – 24 or the ___ you are now…Momma, you’re always an inspiration to me. I love you.