Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Mother's Journal

My mother, holding her first granddaughter, 26 years ago.

It was one of those gifts you look at stunned beyond words realizing someone took so much time to make such an amazing gift just for you. It was a gift filled with hopes and dreams and fun and sadness and tears and stories of years gone by. But mostly it was a generous gift of love from my mother.

Mom wrote in a journal every day for three months leading up to my 40th birthday. Each day she wrote at least a full page, in her neat, tiny, and very distinctive hand writing, telling me stories about being her daughter. Some stories I knew by heart already but cherished having them in her handwriting. Some were prayers for my good health and happiness. Some days Mom asked questions about my expectations and dreams for the future. Other times Mom questioned decisions she'd made and the impact they had on the woman I've become. I am my mother's daughter and the journal she wrote for me was, and continues to be, an amazing and cherished gift.

It took me nearly three weeks to read the entire journal cover to cover, although I could have easily done so in an afternoon. At first I read quickly, ending up in a puddle of tears or fits of laughter with each story she told. But the more I read, the more I wanted to stretch my mother's words for as long as possible. So I forced myself to slow down and read only one page at a time, even if the page ended in mid-sentence.

Some of the stories, I suspect, were difficult for Mom to share with me. Others I knew she was smiling as she wrote. As for the stories asking me questions about my life today or my impressions of my childhood, well, I still haven't answered all of them, at least not in writing. We've spoken about many of the stories in the journal but some questions I don't have answers to yet. Not that there are any deep dark secrets to unearth. That's not it at all-- I had a great childhood. It's just that some of life's experiences haven't unfolded completely and aren't finished enough to answer properly.

When I was transferred to San Francisco for my job 24 years ago, I detoured from New York,where I was living at the time, and spent the weekend in Ohio with my family before heading West. It was back when family and friends could walk passengers through security and to the gate when flying. Mom took me to the Cleveland Airport and told the story of how she stood looking out the window for a full 30 minutes after my plane was out of sight. She said she simply could not move and wondered how I was strong enough to make such a bold change.

I remember that day clearly. Mom insisted on coming to the gate instead of dropping me off curbside. She always said she needed to "flap her arms to help the plane take off" and that day was no exception. Saying good-bye, and walking down the ramp and around the corner to the plane was the longest walk of my life. Mom had tears in her eyes and would have understood if I did too, but that's just not "me", so I waved one last time and kept a smile on my face until the plane was in the sky. I was okay, but I was really, really sad to be saying good-bye to her. And the truth is, I was able to make that major life change because Mom raised me to be a strong and independent woman.

Mom's journal also remembered the time Dad brought home a gallon of black olives and told us kids to eat them until they were gone! Dad, frustrated that the black olive dish was always empty before we actually sat down to dinner, thought he'd teach us a lesson by "forcing" use to eat all those olives in one sitting. Ha! There were five kids in my family and a gallon of olives was a drop in the bucket to us. Heck, the first fifty olives went on all our fingertips before we even took a bite! Mom remembered us teasing Dad about that for years.

Mom recalled Saturday nights when, as a young girl, I'd shower and shampoo my hair so she could set it in pin curls to look nice for Sunday School the next morning. She remembered the countless dance recitals she attended, usually on the hottest days of the year, in an auditorium with no air-conditioning. She told me about each of my grandparents and the details of the day I was born. And she told me countless times how much she loved me. But I knew that already and have never doubted that fact a single day in my life.

So this journal, this piece of my mother's heart that I carry with me, means the world to me. There isn't a day that has passed that I haven't looked at, or thought of, the journal, it's that close my heart. Sure, sometimes a month or two has passed in the 11 years since I've received it that I haven't opened to a page and read, but it's right here with me.

This precious gift, my mother's journal to me-- answers the oft-asked question, "If the house were to burn down, what would you take?". My answer would be "my mother" even though she doesn't live with me. I'd take her journal.

What would you take?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

71 comments:

Nezzy said...

Your Mama left you a most precious gift to cherish forever. So very bless you are to have it.

Have a wonderful day!!!

Christy said...

What a wonderful gift. I want to do something like that for my daughter too now. I would take my husband, daughter and dog...and I'd grab my wedding ring. I don't wear it often - but I am wearing it right now! I loved this post Joanna - it brought a tear to my eye.

L.B. said...

What a fantastic post. Thanks for sharing that with us.

Hilary said...

Incredible post, Joanna. Very touching and tender. What a beautiful bond you share with your mother.

This post is lost from your blog's "front page" because it's dated September 7th rather than October. I'd hate for people to miss out on reading it because of that. If you just edit the date on the post and re-publish, that ought to take care of it.

Willoughby said...

How lucky you are to have such a wonderful gift.

The night before my wedding, my mom left a card on my bed. She told me what a wonderful daughter I was and what a wonderful woman I had become. It moved me to tears (I'm emotional, but not a crier).

Not The Rockefellers said...

First of all...wonderful. I truly enjoyed every word of this... What a wonderful gift for a mother to give her daughter.

Secondly, your Mom looks like Susan Sarandon. Just Beautiful!

Lastly, I'd bring my pillow

Peace - Rene

Matty said...

Your mother sounds like a very special person and you are so fortunate to call her mom. The bond she forged with you over the years is so evident. You must be a proud daughter, and a special mom yourself to have learned so much from her.

Her gift to you is so thoughtful, and I'm sure you will treasure it the rest of your life.

Remember your own children, the way she did with hers.

Joanna, a real heartwarming story.

TechnoBabe said...

You are so blessed to have had a mother and a father and siblings in a family filled with love. I cannot even imagine living like that. But I am so happy when I hear about some people's childhoods. You are your mother's daughter, Joanna.

noexcuses said...

What an incredible post! I'm still wiping the tears. What a loving thing to do for someone. Not only was I glued to the computer screen as I read, I felt the love you both have for each other passing back and forth.

Thank you for sharing this part of your life.

Sarah said...

Your mom would be so proud that you have started your own journaling....it may look different physically, but you are carrying on the tradition. I hope that you will take the time to print out your posts someday and place them in your own journal to be given to a new generation. Words are so powerful and paint portraits worthy of keeping forever.

This was a wonderful post Joanna---thank you for sharing!

Brian Miller said...

what an amazing gift, that i know never grows old to revisit...in all honesty thats why i blog...something for my boys, one day.

Madison said...

I commend you for appreciating the journal. That's the amazing thing about this post to me. You cherish it.

Bunny said...

Not only was this an amazing story your Mom sure looks like Susan Surandon I had to double click. You are a lucky gal to have this wonderful piece of your Mom's heart. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

This is one of the most beautiful things I've read. You have inspired me to start my own journals for my own children tath someday they might feel the same way.

I'm putting this under the sunset on my blog I because I hope many more people read this.

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

That is very precious! I have a journal for both of my daughters that I have written in since they were babies. I write in each of them as if they are letters to them both.

If I had to take anything with me, it would be their journals. I would also have to take my puppies.

Your mom is definitely special.

Alix said...

We have such different mothers.

I know mine probably loves me in "her way," but my siblings and I grew up never really knowing or feeling love from either of our parents.

What we wouldn't give for the kind of gift that yours gave you. Yes... let the house burn, but grab the journal on your way out.

Thank you, Joanna. For another treat of the heart and soul.

a corgi said...

I remember you writing about the journal before; I think what a special gift she did; something you will always treasure! this is such a fantastic idea to start too.

(I would take my Bible; although I could get another Bible, I write in mine and I would want to take the insights given along with me if I could only take one thing, that is after Koda of course :)

betty

Teresa @ Grammy Girlfriend said...

When my Mom died 3 years ago, she left us 36 years of journals....that she wrote in EVERYDAY. What a tresure.....

Ina in Alaska said...

Fantistic mom, very loving and a good role model.... I would run out the door with all three dogs and my latptop and medicines. Very practical person... xoxo

My name is PJ. said...

This was wonderful, Joanna! Right up my alley! As a mom who has written journals, books and songs for her children, I can tell you that the gift was as much for her as for you; being able to relive and share things with the ones we love makes your heart grow bigger with each word. You have a super duper mom who has inspired me!

Ocean Girl said...

Your Mom is so beautiful Joanna. Her smile is so sweet. There is gentleness in the way she holds the baby.

The picture is unmistakably classy, of a person and of an era. Reminds me of Jackie and her babies (I do not mean to compare the incomparable).

This posts makes me admire you more.

anne h said...

How wonderful to read such a precious and well-written story. She is always with you in your heart.

cinner said...

You know I envy the relationship you have with your mother. I think it is just beautiful. I'd go back in a fire for it. Big Hug.

ChristineM said...

What a great post! And a wonderful gift from your mother! So inspiring...

I've actually thought about this - my dad gave me a cigar box of old photos of his family, most of whom died before I was born. I've tucked in a few other items, like my grandfather's fire chief's badge and stuff. That's what I would grab!

Thanks for visiting my blog the other day!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

What a tremendous gift! I have a journal for each of my boys--but I don't write in it THAT Faithfully. I'm inspired now.

Cathy Clementz said...

How fortunate you and your Mom have been to have that bond.

Life with Kaishon said...

This post was so beautiful! I want my Mom to read it so she can write a book for me : ). What a wonderful gift she gave you. I just love this so much Joanna! And I LOVE that picture of your Mama from many years ago. So beautiful!

Little Ms Blogger said...

What a wonderful gift you mother created for you.

Mike Smith said...

A wonderful photo, Joanna. What would I rescue from my burning house? Well, first I would grab the beer; then the television and music system; then my laptop. And if the fire birgade hadn't arrived by then I'd nip back for Mrs Smith..

Aleta said...

Oh darn! I made it ALL the way through the post, holding back the tears and then you got me right at the end!!!! Just let me dry my eyes first...


..... ok... better now. This was beautiful. What... an.. incredible gift from your Mom. If I ever have a child, I will do that my child. Beautiful, just beautiful.

Green-Eyed Momster said...

That is a very sweet and touching thing that your mom to do that for you.

I think I'll try to do something like that for my kids.

Hugs!!

Stacey said...

So touching. I have to admit that I'm left longing to have a gift like that.. or to have a mother like that. Instead, I suppose I will take it as a gift of inspiration to someday do the same for my own children. Thank you for sharing it with us.

yorksnbeans said...

How beautiful!

Otin said...

This post has a special place in my heart. My Mother writes down everything and puts it in her cedar chest. She says she wants me to read it all some day. I am sure that it will be very traumatic.

Chrisy said...

oh my...what a gift...from your mother to you...and from you to us...a reminder of how precious written memories can be...thank you...

Lulu said...

Ohhhh...what a great post, and as it's the first time that I've checked in on you in a week or so - very much appreciated. Did you post it to MORE? :)

Thanks for sharing with us!

Chris H said...

What a lovely story.
That was a chubby baby granddaughter in the photo!

What would I take? All living things.. then photos and videos.

Jeanie said...

I can't add much too all that has been said above, I can only agree that it was a wonderful post and a really wonderful gift. I really miss that I haven't had my mother in my adult life.

Rowe said...

For starters, Joanna, this picture looks like a woman holding her own child, not her grandchild. Your mom has left you with a priceless gift; her thoughts, her handwriting, and memories of your own life and hers, together.
What would I take in the event of a fire? Wwhatever I could grab after my loved one's first. I am not prepared for a fire, guess that is something to think about though, being prepared for a disaster that usually happens unexpectedly.

Debbie / Cranberry Fries said...

What a fabulous idea and such a precious gift!

Unknown Mami said...

What a beautiful, thoughtful, generous gift.

LadyFi said...

What a lovely treasure chest of memories and love.

angelcel said...

Oh crumbs - I blubbered reading this. You are so lucky to have such a loving mother and what a wonderful, wonderful gift to give to you.

angelcel said...

I also meant to say - your Mum was a very beautiful granny! :)

Kwana said...

Wow. This is the most beautiful gift ever. She gave you her heart.

Cairo Typ0 said...

What a beautiful post and an amazing gift from your mother. This was a truly touching post. Thank you :)

Tammy Howard said...

What a wonderful gift!

beth said...

makes me want to make sure that I leave a gift like that for my children...I can always start today, right ?

Cheffie-Mom said...

This is an amazing post -- so beautifully written. I cannot imagine a more amazing gift. Mother daughter relationships are so very important. You are very blessed. Hugs to you.

Charisse and Holly said...

I just followed you here thru Willoughby. Fun to see your guest post there. I say you buy the Dibs your hubby loves and eat those next time without telling him. I say YOU DESERVE IT! You earned a billion wife points in my book. Come by and see my new blog. We love visitors, and we love to comment, and oh yeah...don't look now but I'm Following you! Holly at lifelaughlatte.blogspot.com

diane said...

So touching, all of it.
How wonderful for you to have that, a real treasure. xo

Joanie M said...

Great photo of your Mom! Lovely story too!

Ribbon said...

What you have written here is very beautiful and was a pleasure to read.
I too keep a journal for my son, but I don't write daily.
Thank you for what you have shared here today as I feel encouraged to keep on writing to him and of course for myself.

Brilliant!

best wishes
Ribbon x

JennyMac said...

what an amazing gift!!!!! ANd I love that pic (and I swear those hospital blankets are in EVERY hospital..we have pics of our son in the same blanket).

♥ Braja said...

My chanting beads and my deities....

Eva Gallant said...

What a beautiful post! I have no daughters, but maybe I'll do that for my sons. I have a little over 2 years to think about it before my oldest turns 40.

Holly said...

Stopping by from Willoughby's...

What a beautiful post. I have tried with both kids to keep a journal and it is VERY sporadic, but this is inspiring me to keep it up...there may be holes, but it will still be priceless to them one day.

If I had to take one thing I would have trouble choosing between my archived photos (on a disk) from my kids or the photo album my great aunt had kept since with family photos dating back to the early 1900's.

Holly @ 504 Main

Midtown Girl said...

This is so wonderful. I was just working on my mom post which I will post in Nov (for special reasons!).

Thank you for sharing this, my mom is everything to me too ;-)

XOXO
Amy

elvira pajarola said...

I "discovered" your enchanting and inspiring blog; beautiful and I am glad to follow it with joy!!!
Oh, I am certain to enjoy myself and will see you soon!
Thank you so much for your lovely comment; i just loved it!
Send you all my TUSCAN SUN today!!!
ciao elvira

abby jenkins said...

Wow! As I was reading this, weeping like a little baby, I couldn't help thinking...that thoughful journal sounds like something my mom would have done. I miss her so and wish I had something as precious as you do to remember her by. What a joy strumbling across your blog via a stop at Willoughby.

It seemed we were sharing memories about my mom too
....from airport goodbyes to Sunday school pincurls....so imagine my shock when at the end of the post I see we share the same last name! Thanks for the wonderful post sister!

Betty said...

60 comments so far! Great post Joanna. You have a wonderful mother and she has given you the best gift ever.
If I had a memory like that I would probably want to do something similar for my daughters, but alas....midlife (and with it forgetfulness) has taken away so many great moments. And back then I was not into writing or "journaling" yet.
I can understand what you mother went through when bringing you to the airport. I was in tears, when my daughter moved to Canada 4 years ago and had the same thoughts as your mom did!
Thanks for sharing this!

CraezieLady said...

Hello, dear! I've been reading, but not commenting, as I have only had a few odd moments with the family being sick!

This is one of your most beautiful posts! Your mother sounds fabulous for making such a loving gift! I hope I can do something equally wonderfully for each of my children!

Do you have a favorite story in your mother's journal?

Jeff D'Antonio said...

Blessings to your mom for giving you such a special gift.

Christine said...

What a heartwarming story, you have a lovely mom, on the outside and in. Thanks for sharing.

Margo said...

how beautiful and inspirational, Joanna. what an amazing gift from your beautiful mother :)

Kristan said...

What a wonderful gift! Here via Pseudo's blog, fyi. Lovely post.

Lisa Gioia-Acres said...

Joanna, what a wonderful, precious gift. Your mom is a special, generous and thoughtful woman. Thank you for sharing that story.

Lisa Gioia-Acres said...

P.S., I would grab my external hard drive where I've been scanning documents and photographs just in case!

Anonymous said...

I’d sweetie to say something or anything to with that too!

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it is know that some dating sites turn blind eye to bogus profile in their books :)

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