Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Legacy



I'm sitting here writing this with my my son strapped to my chest like a reverse Quato, listening to my cousin's version of "My Lean Baby," and thinking about my mother. It's a nice family moment. Today I started a project I've been looking forward to for a while now. I'm reading my mom's journals. After mom died I found journals going back to October 1978. My mom was 25, I was a year old.

It's a strange experience reading this first hand account of a young woman I never knew. The person I knew was mom. The woman in these pages is Chiori and is all the things my mom never was. She's younger than I am, less experienced, naive, immature. She's full of self doubt. My mom was confident, insightful, worldly. The woman in this book is a woman I never knew.

Knowing how the story ultimately ends provides some interesting moments. At one point she mentions that as someone who is almost twenty seven years old she feels mature and grown up. Then there's a couple times when she writes about how much more time she has to live. She indicates that she has a long time left, as much as fifty more years which means she predicted her life span as 77 years. She didn't know it then, but at 27 she was exactly at the half way point of her life.

Reading these early accounts is like peeling back the curtain on another life revealing a woman who's primary concern in life is being loved on her terms. She mentions that she does not write much about motherhood because she has so many other things to figure out about herself before she can reflect on parenting. Indeed she often references her "adolescent self" as though the issues that teenaged Chiori had yet to work through were following her into adulthood. This idea makes sense to me. My mom moved out of her mother's house at seventeen. It seems likely that having to grow up early also stunted her emotional development. Many parts of her journal do read like something a teenager would write. Her views on personal relationships don't seem as mature as I would expect from someone her age. I look at my wife who is now the age my mother was at the end of the first volume I've read, and see someone who seems much more mature and confident than the woman in this journal.

This experience has caused me to wonder what kind of legacy I will leave for my son. I don't keep a journal. There is no day to day account of my life or my thoughts. I doubt any of my forays into this type of expression out here on the internet will remain after I am gone. Besides, there seems to be very little romance in reading an online journal. It can't compare to holding a bound volume in your hands. Knowing that these pages were there in that time. Reading the author's words in their own hand. I don't know if I'l be able to give that to my son and that makes me sad.

Reading mom's accounts of her life when I was a toddler has brought me closer to her. I understand her better now. I wish I had been able to read this five years ago when she was alive and I could talk to her about it. I wish I could ask her what she thinks of the young woman who wrote these entries. I wish I could dig deeper into her experience of being a twenty four year old single mother. I think we could have been closer if I'd been able to understand her beyond what she was able to tell me. But I am grateful to have these journals. I am happy that I will be able to paint a more complete picture of Grandma Chiori for my son. I look forward to starting the next volume.

5 comments:

  1. Beautifully expressed, Roberto. We've never met, but I know Iggy. I'm Emma's mother, Hannah. I love your thoughts on keeping a journal. My husband Bob, Emma's father, kept a journal for many years, writing in it daily. He lamented that he often got caught up in writing about petty struggles, such as bad times at work. But these small things are often what we need to process through writing. I have a feeling that your mother truly was the confident person you knew—but in our journals we can wrestle with our insecurities, which are not our totality. Her journals are a gift, for sure.

    I am very glad that Bob kept a journal all those years. He died five years ago this spring and it feels like an eye blink and an eternity all at once. I still write in a paper journal too, though I'm not good about keeping it up. I guess blogs are, for better or for worse, today's journals. I agree with you—that's sad.

    Hannah Benoit
    www.pencilpoints.wordpress.com

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    1. Thank you Hannah, that's a great perspective.

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  2. Hey Roberto, this is really thoughtful and touching. One of the best and weirdest parts of becoming an adult has been getting to know my parents as adults. Becoming a parent myself was a big part of that.

    After my dad passed away, I found a cache of letters in his attic that he and my mom had written to each other when they were dating (he was my mom's prom date so you can imagine how young they were). There was so much I recognized of both of them in those letters, but so much that I had never known or really understood. I wish I'd kept them. You're really lucky to have your mom's journals to help you and your sweet kids remember her.

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  3. Also that is an awesome maternity top.

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