CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I reread 15 years of my diaries last summer. They started with one-sentence entries in a five-year diary in the fourth grade ("Played with Janie"), then expanded into boy-crazy yearnings in junior high and then detailed angst with an off-and-on steady in high school whom I eventually married after graduate school.
A lot of the hurt was revisited, but also the growing young love. The diaries ended the summer before I was married. Since we seemed to share so well, the diaries seemed redundant.
I was shocked at the college boyfriends I had forgotten and the apocryphal stories I remembered incorrectly. It was Roger, not Dave, who told me about JFK being shot as I walked to sixth period. Upon my fiancé asking my father to marry me, my father didn't say, "What took you so long?" It was, "That was my plan all along."
Why didn't I record the last names of several boyfriends, including Michael, the Englishman I dated in grad school? I could stalk him on the Internet and see where he is now, though Facebook photos of other former boyfriends show them white-haired and balding.
I was surprised I had forgotten a molestation of a family member that I had only wondered about in later years. My diary does not record if my parents were told or this older boyfriend of a neighbor was ever confronted. My days revealed a lot of stress with ongoing pressures of school but also fun activities (plays, band) and achievements (editor of a WVU yearbook). I admit I did tear out some pages that read like a bad romance novel.
There is value in diaries and letters. The diaries of my mom's missionary years in the West Virginia coalfields during the Great Depression I donated to the State Museum. Her letters to her parents during her college years captured life in the 1920s so well that the college library was glad to receive them this summer.
What did I discover rereading these? I skipped class more than I remembered. I was glad I wrote such detail of events and feelings. I was fascinated reading of my very own past. For a few days, I again mourned a college boyfriend who died a few years ago. I was able to relive a younger me and my family, like that scene from "Our Town."