The Christmas I was 9, our mother began an annual practice of giving both her kids a daily diary, which, for the next three years, I virtually never wrote in except to scribble “Had Gym today” on every Tuesday that school was in session.
My older sister wrote in hers though. “Got a horse today,“ Nan fibbingly scribbled on one page of her own personal journal, and so I made a similar entry .Then, when she penned “my horse is expecting” some few days later, I told the identical whopper in my journal and never mind that these two facts could not have BEEN further from the truth for two children living (together with their mother and three ancient folks all born before the Election of 1876) on a narrow city street that trolley cars screeched past both day and night. The only thing that was true between the equine world and us was that we maybe accidentally smooched the televised images of Spin and Marty’s horses while going for the two Disney idols themselves. To put a finer point on it, kissing the TV screen during the Mickey Mouse Club show was basically the most adventurous thing either one of us did back then. So, apparently we thought it best to make stuff up.
But then, when we were in Sixth and Fourth grade respectively, our sweet resident old people died within 15 months of one another. And so, invited to live in a new city with our Aunt Grace and Uncle Jack, Mom closed up and sold the old house and moved there with us, to a street with no trolleys, no lamplighter at dusk, no dusty elderly man with a pushcart bleating “Raaaags!” in an effort to collect folks’ unwanted textiles
I did write in my diary in this new place, which to Nan and me resembled nothing so much as the set of a 60’s TV show with, instead of back alleys and in-ground garbage pails, there were kids on stilts and pogo sticks playing right out in the street. There were tough little crab apples for hurling at one another in the great The-Boys-Against-The-Girls wars, and endless games of kickball ,and skating on the crusty mirror of ice that Mr. Talbot conjured up every winter using just his flat backyard and a garden hose. THEN my entries were action-packed, all right, like this one when I threw my first party:
But they only became more “inner” when I fell in love.
Because in those days the Church said that kissing for more than five minutes was a Mortal Sin, I became haunted by a letter-of-the law-mentality that lurks just under the surface of most of my entries of my Middle School and High School years. I look now at the record of all that angst – about my immortal soul, and my homework, and whether or would do well enough in school to get a college scholarship – and how I do feel for that young girl drawing at the top of the diary’s pages a heart for the kissing, a church steeple to signify I had gone to Confession, a pair of googly eyes for the all-nighters I pulled trying to get those A’s!
At age 13, I developed a friendship with a girl so much like me that we would read one another’s diaries at the end of every year. Thus, Bobbie saw it all, right up to the time, when, still a ‘mere girl’, I fell in love for keeps, and decided together with this ‘mere boy’ of a guy that we would marry as soon as college was over.
Below is the letter she wrote me after reading my account of my very last year of life as an uncoupled person. It is a letter I found to be so loving when I drew it from between the pages of that year’s diary just now that I thought I would share it here. Here’s what wrote, in long-ago 1968, as she returned that year’s volume:
“Here you are, Terry dear. I will no longer read entries about the Aprils-Junes-Septembers in Terry’s life and you, I’m sure, will stop writing them if you haven’t already. Such a progression from the scrawly writing of the young, young Terry, and then Mike in eighth grade, and Nan’s boyfriend, and that near-death experience when she gave him the Ex-Lax valentine! All that and the pink and golds of heaven and on to next-door Dicky B. and bedroom windows with walkie-talkies between, and Kathy Rodger. and Peter Paul and Mary and of course a different boy and the overstuffed chair in the basement study where that interfering religion made a lovely thing so hard and tortuous.
“So many entries over the school years with your tiny top-of-the-page pictures of the weather, the days’ outfits, the little church spires and stars – and later only weights at the top of pages and notes reading “Oh God it’s 2am!” or “up at 5 sewing clothes” (or making that facsimile of a 12th century manuscript, or just plain writing papers.) Then Senior year and the end of Special Chorus and the Keith dances but Terry’s list of duties continuing, on to college, where most of the pages now are too recent to be memories ….Let’s never stop knowing each other.”
And we haven’t stopped.
I record all this today because I want to report that I never stopped writing the diary either and have just this last hour made the final entry in the 2018 volume. There are 61 of them now, all in a row, all stored in old National Geographic binders in a third-floor bookcase.
I don’t know who will ever read this centipede of a life story except maybe my children, if even they have the fortitude. I do know, however, what writing it has done for me. Week after week, month after month, year after year it has taught me to feel so very grateful for good friends like length of days and the peace of mind to live them out.
12 thoughts on “For Bobbie at Year’s End”
Can it be true that you remember an old lamplighter at dusk and an old man with a push cart bleating Raaags!?
Is Bobby the one who went to camp with us?
I know it seem unbelievable but yes there were still gas lamps in that part of Boston in the 50s and the rag man was real allright. Our part of Dorchester was home to what at one time was the biggest Jewish community in the east, people who had come from parts of Europe at the start of the 1900s and brought a feel of a bustling village with them . I just googled all this and found an interview where Leonard Nimoy recalls growing up in a place in the West End of Boston that felt like shtetl to him. Check it out. He too speaks of pushcarts! https://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/language-literature-culture/heft-notebook/jewish-neighborhoods-boston
When I first read this entry, Ter, there was no photo of Bobby. I must have failed to click on the blue title. She is the Bobby Bayley from Fernwood! She was at one of our reunions too. And I see she went to school with you. I’m sure you’re still close friends. How is she? Lovely note she wrote you as your marriage approached!
Happy New Year, old friend! I remember you when you were 3 in cabin 1 and I was 10 in cabin 5! How serious you were!
Such a lot to say to you Gwen. For sure we started very young Nan and I with our mom running the place and her bedroom light visible across the field. WAS I serious even as a small child? Then where did this jokey self come from I wonder? Ah I long to see you!
Your jokey self was even there while you rested on your cot in Cabin 1. Time and experience perfected it for us to enjoy!
Quite possibly this is the most moving “new years” post I’ve read in as long as I can remember. Of course, I still have lots of questions… What became of Bobby? Did you ever get a horse? Do you still do the little drawings on the top of your diary pages?
I’m sure those National Geographic storage folders guard a lifetime of memories that your children will some day treasure.
For New Years,I thought you might enjoy a few of my fond memories of You dear Terry!👭We met when we were ten, my first year at Fernwood and so the story begins. Being a free spirit from the Adirondacks I quickly learned to conform to the daily routines and rules of camp. Needless to say we somehow managed to push the envelope and create our own unorganized fun and mischief. “The bug man is here!” resonated through the trees of Greylock as it summoned us and any other little brave souls, to run behind the magical cloud of assuredly toxic bug spray , until it sadly escaped our reach . Interestingly , I seem to have an ability today, to resist mosquito bites! All was not in vain! Kathy Mags was in for it the next year! As soon as taps finished, you and I were out of our cabin on our way to terrorize the older campers by scratching on their screens!Kathy scared the heck out of us telling stories of “The Hook”, which I was convinced was true! She was such a good sport when we pulled the cup of water over the door trick on her!As pubescent wonders, we continued our shenanigans in Warner and the counselor on patrol often found us in a cabin far from our own. You were in 6 and I was in 7 that year. I remember how we loved seeing Sandy Borgati’s parents visit because their cook always sent a huge box of brownies and peanut butter cookies. She was very good at sharing! I used to visit her Dad’s store, Spags, when Mike and I lived in Shrewsbury for a year during his residency at Worcester Memorial. Neat store! I skipped the next year but returned the summer after. Bobbie was our counselor and we had such a great summer. We were teenagers now and I think we had “significant “ boyfriends at home. Nonetheless, that didn’t keep us from sneaking up to the reservoir one day to meet the cute guys we’d met at a dance.I think there were cigarettes too! Was it that day or another we ventured towards town calling “Lassie” to throw off any adults who might not believe we were really looking for our dog? By now, anyone else reading this must think I was your ‘crazy’ friend! I guess my MO is work hard/play hard! Thank you for so many other wonderful memories. You were a big part of my life and I’m so happy you’re still sharing yours ! Be happy, be strong , be kind.💖
Meredith I can’t even SAY how great it was t receive this from you. And the memories, some of which I had forgotten. Wait til Counselor Kathy Maginnis sees this ! We actually booby-trapped the door so water fell in her head?! I think of her as the strong and confident swimming counselor who held me by the waist on the diving board at age 11 when I was trying to do my first perfect arc of a back drive . Never did master that but oh I do see you in your matching short sets and headbands. Now I feel so connected to you again. Let’s pretend we’re in the cabins again. whose bed shall we shortsheet haha? Love you old friend …
Happy New Year and thanks for the diary
Sent from my iPad
I loved this, Terry! Wow – If I had done the same, I would certainly remember to practice self-compassion daily. I hope you have found that in recording your own life story. What a feat!
I can’t think how I missed replying to THIS nice note IMMEDIATELY Bev! It’s been quite a ride all these years as I have searched for the best way to mark my days here. Now the entries are filled with direct quotes of what people have said or told to me. What brings a person to live more than this, you know? YOU do it in your wonderful blog!