Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Diaries - The 1950s


I know what you’re thinking. How many times is that woman going to moan and groan about disposing of her old diaries before she actually does it? Last night I took a five year diary out of the metal box where I keep them all with the intention of giving it a last read. It was a quick read because only two of the five years were filled in and those five year diaries don’t give you a lot of room to write in. I was thirteen and fourteen when I wrote in that book and it isn’t my only diary from the decade. I have three others from the '50s but only one is a single year diary and I’m pretty sure that will be the only diary I end up keeping and therefore I don't need to read it now. It has handbills from all the movies I saw attached to the pages but otherwise it's the diary of a naive and typical boy-crazy teenager.

I’m planning to pull out a few highlights from each of my diaries from the 1950s through the '90s before THE BIG PURGE and I’ll catalog those highlights into something brief but readable, maybe even bloggable. The project will occupy evenings deep into the winter when in past years I would have been knitting in my La-A-Boy. I just can't decide if I should do the project this winter or next. The advantage of waiting is I should have all my sellable stuff gone by then and while reading old diaries is entertaining it feels like I'm wasting valuable time. It's a hard decision. I'll finish reading the 1950s before I decide. At least that much will be done and waiting for the 'fire ceremony.'

Reading the five year diary, the first thing that stands out is what an atrocious speller I was. I already knew that because my "creative" spelling got me labeled 'stupid' when I was growing up. But I had to laugh at how many days the only entry I made was: “I didn’t do ‘inething.’” And I ‘red’ instead of read, went to the ‘liberly’ instead of the library and I always used the word ‘agent’ for again. One of my favorite misspellings is my cousin got ‘mariaged.’ And no matter how many times I try to decipher what I was trying to say when I wrote, “I walret tevletion” I can’t figure it out. Another puzzling entry in the diary was, “I didn’t go to church today because I didn’t get soup.” Say what? I'm seriously thinking of starting another five year diary on day one in my new place. I have Alexa to help me with spelling now and at my age any confusing sentences would get chalked up to dementia setting in.

Speaking of church, I was shocked with how many times I wrote that I had gone to church and to something called B.C. Fellowship. In my memory I thought I left all my church-going days back in early grade school when they used a flannel board to hold paper cut-outs to tell Bible stories. Now I’m trying to figure out if spending two years in my early teens going to church and B.C. Fellowship influenced my current (and often negative) attitude toward religion or if that came later. I’ve been thinking a lot about religion in recent months---and that shocks me, too. I’ve been following the newsletter from the parent company of Continuum Care Campus where I’ll be moving to get a sense of the types of activities that are available at their other two campuses. They have a Creative Writing Circle and the submissions I've read lean towards Godly topics. And I will probably be going to a lot of church choral performances around the holidays. No surprise there since these places are non-profits supported by a foundation through the United Methodist Church. And I’ll probably be making handcrafts to donate to their do-good projects. Fine by me. If I’m going to live there, I’m going to jump into the culture with both feet until/if I have a reason to pull back.

Back to my diaries. I got my first pair of nylons in the mid ‘50s and I wore them with a pink junior bridesmaid dress and silver shoes when my cousin got "mariaged." I thought her new husband was the “perfect husband” and boy was I a poor judge of character back then. He left her with a bunch of little kids, skipped the state and never looked back. Another highlight was I had my second crush on a boy named Gene. (My first crush was on Gene Autry in my pre-teens.) March 12th the boys at school threw snowballs at me and on April 10th I wrote: “We had a play for the grownups at school. I was an "Itay’ girl” aka an Italian. That was no stretch, given I was one of the very few dark haired kids in a sea of blonde-headed Dutch kids that I went all the way through school with. 

Reading the five year diary I also realized that I was a busy kid. I was always going off to ice skate, roller skate, dance class, see a movie or go tobogganing. I was in Campfires and I still have my beaded merit vest which probably doesn’t surprise anyone. I also went to three “sleep parties” and even hosted one of my own. Many of my entries were simply “I worked today” but I never expanded on what exactly that meant. I remember having chores like ironing, cleaning the house, mopping floors and working in the yard. I also babysat a set of twin cousins often and I took swimming lessons at the YWCA. The latter of which surprised me when I read it because I spent summers on a lake from the time I was three and I learned to swim long before my early teens. Why did my mom think I needed to go to the YWCA, especially since it involved taking a bus downtown? Details, little Jean, didn't you know your older self would want them?

As I was reading the five year diary I saw a news clip on TV about climate activist Greta Thunberg being named Time's Person of the Year. It made me sad to compare my carefree youth to hers. Kids today have to grow up too fast. They do active shooter drills in school and worry about terrorist attacks and the world being inhospitable to humans in the not so distance future. I deeply regret that the world they are inheriting has so many serious problems to solve but at the same time I'm proud of them and feel they are up to the task. Their social media version of my '50s diaries will be filled with more details and 'red meat' than mine, right down to photos of what they ate at their first Save-the-Planet rally.  ©

The junior bridesmaid.

Yes, I still have all my school report cards. What I lacked in spelling I made up for in penmanship.

32 comments:

  1. I think it's wonderful for you to have a dose of heady nostalgia by re-reading your old Diaries from so long ago, I don't think it's a waste of time at all! I think I deciphered that one phrase as something to do with watching television... and your Creative Writing reminds me of Princess T's and it always makes me Smile with the words she comes up with and her spelling of almost anything, Bless her Heart. I never had a Diary, but sometimes if I look back at an Old Blog Post before I purge them {I do that often to make online space for new ones}, it's interesting to see what my thoughts were and my feelings at various points in time as I went thru Life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was guessing that one phrase was "watch television" too but I wanted to see if anyone else saw that. My spelling depends on memorization, not sounding words out. Even today. Has Princess T ever been tested for dyslexia?

      Delete
  2. You do not know what I'm thinking, I love this post! I don't have anything from my youth, except for a few pictures, and I love that picture of you in your bridesmaid's dress.

    Instead of writing every day in a diary after you move, how about blogging almost every day? It would be sharing your new adventure with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I need the days in between publishing my blog to proof read what I write. I make too many mistakes and I don't see them until I've let the words sit for a while.

      That was a cute dress wasn't it. My mom made the headpiece.

      Delete
  3. I kept a diary for a while in high school, but they're long gone, along with the Valentines, report cards, high school annuals, and such. As for your comments about kids having to cope with things, we had classmates crippled by polio and drills where we ducked and covered under our desks to help us cope with the anxiety of the living with the bomb. I went with my dad to civil air patrol watches, and had to figure out those 'whites only' water fountains when we visited family in Louisiana. Honestly, I don't think it's worse now, in terms of challenges. It may be that people's coping skills are degrading -- and that as bad as things are, they get magnified because of the 24/7 news cycle (worse headlines = more eyes = more $$$) and the effects of social media.

    I smiled when I saw your next spot in the world has Methodist connections. It will be fine. I grew up in the Methodist church, and from what I can tell, they still are much like what they used to be: that is, about as far from snake-handling and demanding proselytization as you would hope.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Last summer I gave away my high school class annuals and this week I threw out two scrape books from high school. I'm getting there. I have three teachers in my family so they many end up with the report cards someday but they don't take up a lot of room.

      I remember ducking under desks too to practice for air raid drills in my very early grades and my brother remembers collecting tin cans for the war effort. In one of my '50s diaries I read about us both going for or polio shots. We didn't have 'whites only' water fountains up here but I remember those being explained to me once when we went on a vacation south. I do think you're right about the 24/7 news cycles and social media makes all things move faster and magnifies them. All generations have their challenges.

      Ya, I'm okay with the Methodist church. I've been fake-fitting in for decades with more judgemental denominations. LOL Even my Gathering Girls who I love like sisters don't have a clue that I'm not a believer like they are...except for the one who reads my blog sometimes.

      Delete
  4. What a great time you'll have looking back at your youth! What prompted you to become a diarist in the first place? You've had such a firm commitment to it, it seem as if it was something important that made an impression.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good question. If you are to believe the preamble in very first diary I'm guessing I wanted to be a story teller even back then. It reads, "This book belongs to Jean ____. It's the story of one year of her life as it happens each day." As the years went by my preambles got more and more grandiose. It may have been the same time frame in which I learned that one of my ancestors wrote the first history of the American Revolution based on her diaries and her letters back and forth to the signers of the Constitution. In the same time frame I started my diaries I met three aunts who documented history in the form of publishing a daily newspaper. But I think the main reason I started diaries is because my mom gave me my first one for Christmas.

      Delete
  5. I never had any diary. Maybe I should have but maybe it's a lady's things. I know I have a book that I have to write things in mainly because I can't remember things since my stroke and that was a long, long time ago. My quote diary is mainly emails and passwords of things I need. Without this book I'd be lost.
    Church, I was an alter boy in my church but as I got olders and the priests treated my family and my students in so much disdain, I decided that I don't need them but I would never give up with God. God is the main reason that I'm still here.
    Keep strong Jean.

    Cruisin Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Girls do diaries, guys do journals. I'm thinking of starting a diary like your book. Half the time I can't remember what I ate for breakfast.

      My dad had a falling out with the Catholic church, too. Merry Christmas, Paul! Enjoy your family.

      Delete
  6. That junior bridesmaid outfit is super cute. Good memories are fun and comforting as we get older, no? I so wish I had kept my first little pink diary with the lock on it. I'm sure it couldn't have kept out anyone who really wanted to open it, but I am the oldest of six kids and I was sure my brothers were interested. LOL. Unlikely. Although I did save some wonderful love letters from an old boyfriend in my mom's attic. One summer I came home to visit with my then husband (different guy) and the letters were open and scattered around the box when I went upstairs. Not wanting my husband to see them (he was crazy jealous and got more so with age), I got rid of all of them. After my divorce, I had a good cry for not saving them.

    As someone said in a previous comment, I'm guessing the Methodists are pretty mainstream - especially given some of the options here in W. Michigan. LOL.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I not only still have the diary I have the key. I used to put baby power in the between the pages to 'trap' my brother if he opened it and sewing thread. Got that from a Nancy Drew book but I didn't think about the fact that my mother or mother would just replace the powder in thread after read my diary.

      Thank goodness my husband was not the jealous type.

      Ya, Methodists are so mainstream here they're practically sinners here in West Michigan. I personally know to who think we have a non-denominational church downtown is preaching evil and wouldn't even go inside there on a church windows tour. LOL

      Delete
  7. I was a Camp Fire Girl and also still have my little beaded vest! I still have the only two diaries I kept from my youth and I haven't read them in a long time! One was from when I was a teenage and if I recall I did some "editing" in case my kids every find them but I think I probably will dispose of them before that! They are fun to read though, aren't they?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad I'm not the only one with a CFG vest. If there is a market for them, mine might get sold in 2020.

      I have edited aka blacked out parts of my diaries from past read-throughs...mostly rants against my mother which were the product of us both being hormonal at the same time.

      Delete
  8. You look so happy in your dress and your role of junior bridesmaid.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You were a rather creative speller. Kind of like kids do when texting today. You make me wish I had recorded my youth instead of trying to rely on my brain which often embellishes the facts.
    You mentioned the kids of today with active shooter drills but we had duck and cover drills for the eminent atomic bomb attacks that thankfully never arrived. Not to forget all the films we saw of what would happen to us all in an attack. Don't miss that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do remember the duck and cover drills and even an underground bomb shelter door-to-door salesman who came around. But I don't think it's a true apples for apples comparison. In our time we just had the fear to deal with, but these kids actually see the mass shootings coverage of actually events that have happened and it's happened every single year of their lives. It's real for them in a way the duck and cover wasn't for us.

      Delete
  10. That's great Jean, that you still have your old diaries. I lost my journals along the way somewhere. I do have some from when I was in my 20s and 30s though. You were a cutie-patootie junior bridesmaid!

    Deb

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does make me kind of sad to be planning their destruction. But it's time and who knows, maybe the highlights I pull out will tell enough about my younger self to make me happy---especially if I pare the highlights with photos and sample handwriting.

      I was a happy kid most days.

      Delete
  11. I never did a diary ... until my blog. I think creative people keep diaries. Every creative person I know has kept diaries since they were about 10 or 12!!!

    Me Ralph bought me a tiny crystal swan for our first Christmas together. Then I started collecting them. He bought me a little curio cabinet but I quickly ran out of room. Goodwill got them when we downsized. I kept the first one!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can relate. I have a curio cabinet full of ceramic dogs. I"m keeping three but I don't know which three yet.

      I think keeping a diary was a popular thing back when I was a kid. I seem to remember a teen movie character making it into a fad.

      Delete
  12. I kept journals for lots of years and found I usually wrote most when I was in angst! If one was to read them they'd think me a depressed, confused, lonely, deeply unhappy woman. And i wasn't -- just when I wrote. Now I try to do a little better. But I'm just as glad I lost most of them in the flood!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's been true of me as an adult and I'm betting it's common. We use writing to work out our problems in a 'safe' place where what we say can't be thrown back in our faces, so to speak. I know I won't miss mine if I pull out the highlights I want to pull out, effectively editing my life experiences to those that in my judgement helped shape who I am today. Most is just dribble!

      Delete
  13. Like you mentioned to Paul in a comment above, guys keep journals. I started mine in the 90s when I began having some work struggles, religious questions, and a few overseas trips.

    I really like the idea of picking out the most meaningful parts of each and putting them in a new "super-journal that covers 10 years or so. There are things I wrote that are important to me, and other stuff that was filler than doesn't need to see the light of day again.

    BTW, without a good spell checker I would have given up blogging years ago. My spelling is too often, well, horrible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember getting my first computer in the 1990s and having Spell Check. It was like a miracle in my life.

      I just read and commented on your post about Perennial Wisdom. What a thoughtful and though provoking blog post!

      Delete
  14. Have you thought about scanning your diaries? Then you could keep them on a memory stick which would fit in anywhere. If you don't have time or a scanner, maybe you could hire a college student to do it for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've thought about hiring a service to scan photos but not the diaries. I like the idea of pulling out and quoting highlights and making a whole new book with photos---kind of like I did in this post. But I know how I am when I'm constructing a book to self-publish so I'm leaning towards doing the 50s this winter and the rest later. It's just time to drastically prune them down, not preserve them in tact.

      Delete
  15. I LOVE this post! Old diaries are the best! I wish I'd been more diligent when I was young. Most of my journals are from my early adult years and on and are full of angst. LOL I do have one from 5th grade. You were so creative and busy! I mostly wrote about what I watched on TV. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keep that 5th grade diary forever...like my one year diary from the '50s. Think Little House on the Prairie. What seems dull now won't be in 100 years. LOL

      Delete
  16. I saw "I watched television" in your mangled phrase -- but I have decades of experience interpreting students' misspellings ;-) Sometimes, you just have to go with the gestalt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had to look up 'gestalt' to understand what you said and it fits prefect for making an educated guess.

      Delete