Last night my mom shared with me a chapter of a relative’s diary from the 1960’s. She was a great something; I get confused and tangled in family tree connection. She was a German woman who ended up in midwestern America with her two sons. The diary entry was so simple and clear, describing a failed duck hunt and the unseasonable warmth of the day. She scaled a haystack for a better view of the wildflowers and ripped her dress.
“How did these get all typed up?” I wanted to know.
Another relative, one of the few who spoke German and English and has long passed on, made it his life’s work to preserve his mother’s diaries. To remember her life.
“My favorite entry is from when I visited them,” Mom texted me. “She only spoke German so back then, I couldn’t understand her. But she wrote about meeting me.”
Fifty years later, a woman’s life calls out to another in a recollection so precarious to being lost. The fluidity of time overcame a moment through a page: Hello. Yes. I see you. I remember. I was so overwhelmed by the sudden understanding of why my mom is working so hard to preserve her family’s history and why it matters. A sudden remembrance of how close we are to being forgotten, and what we stand to lose.
This is my earliest childhood reason for writing. I knew faintly that I wouldn’t be forever, but that books, they could be. When I held Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels in my hands I couldn’t speak to her, but I could hear her.
I wanted to be immortal.