Sometimes I wonder. One day, when I’m old and gray, will I remember all the little details of raising my children? Will I remember how Katie cups my face in her hands and tells me she loves me? Will I remember Andrew’s face when he discovers the tooth fairy left him some money? Will I remember the way William stood at the kitchen window while I washed carrots asking question after question? Will I remember how one day my sweet Joseph declared that he no longer wanted to be called Joseph, but preferred to be called Joey instead? Will I remember picking them up, carrying them, rocking them, singing to them? Will I remember losing sleep as I prayed for them or praising God for all their little smiles? Will I remember the way their downy hair smelled and their little button noses felt as they snuggled right up next to me to fall asleep?
In her book Leaving a Trace, Alexandra Johnson tells a story about how she was given a journal that was written by a woman who once lived in the house she now owned. She imagines the woman walking up the same steps she walked up every day and marveled at how the writer probably thought the details of her life were unimportant. Yet Alexandra was quickly captivated by the woman’s story, which took place in 1895, mesmerized by the smallest details, drawn in by the story. Later the journal writer records how, in an effort to gain a little extra pocket money, she and her sister had gone to a local cemetery, which was about to be relocated, to record names and dates on tombstones. After that her journal entries changed almost as if the time spent in the cemetery had made her realize that without a journal, no one would remember all the details of her life.
And so it goes with us. The details of our lives are ours uniquely. Without some type of written record our details will be lost to memory at some point.
We think we’ll remember all the tiny details, but the truth is we won’t. Time has a funny way of erasing the intricacies of our lives. Often we feel as though we are so busy living that there’s no time for recording, yet for centuries people have managed to do both. It is with gratitude that we read journals of folks like da Vinci and Virginia Woolf, where we learn both the details of history as well as get a glimpse of the consistency of humanity… the dreams we all hold, the fears we all have, the moments we all hang on to desperately.
But it isn’t just my memories I want to hold onto. I want my kids to hold onto theirs as well.
I want them to grow up and look back and remember the cool, crisp air that fall we camped at Garner and the feeling of wonderment as they gazed upon Christmas lights as we drove around the city. I want them to remember the way that snow cone tasted on a hot summer day and the way it felt to dive beneath the water as they pretended to be sharks. I want them to remember the thrill of their first train ride, the feeling of being captivated by a story so well written that their nose never left their book until sleep overtook them.
And I want them to remember all of these details in beautiful language… not the stilted sentences, atrocious spelling and appalling grammar we so often encounter on social media.
I want them to fill their journal pages with the beauty of the English language so that one day when they wonder what it was like when they were little, they can not only read about it, but they can find themselves immersed in it, almost as if they are reliving it.
So practically speaking, how do I accomplish this?
It’s simple. It is one day at a time. One sentence at a time. It is a collection of works in progress but one we must work on daily. Sometimes it’s just a plain notebook. Other times it is a bit fancier, like the time we took the train to Missouri. There are days when we celebrate the beauty of the natural world with a nature journal and other days when we celebrate the details that make us unique with a guided journal. Sometimes it is literally a grasp at reaching out to one another through beautiful, thoughtful words. And then there are the days when we forget how lucky we are and so we wax poetic in a gratitude journal to keep it all in perspective. For me there are the days when I record our details on my blog, forever engraving those memories upon a cyber world.