…or if you do, make sure you don’t write it in pencil. A small chunk of diaries my grandmother penned arrived for my perusal when I had some time on my hands to page through them. The script in pencil has faded, often illegibly, though the spirit of the writer comes through.
My grandmother was a remarkable person, strong and opinionated, not one to suffer fools gladly. She traveled the world round with my grandfather taking a gleeful interest in all they experienced. In Russia in 1953 they visited Tolstoy’s house, and she noted the minutiae of everything preserved there. In Tokyo, where they visited my parents, it was the faces of the little girls. In Paris, the pace at which the Frenchwomen walked.
So much of what she saw is lost to us now because it was private, in those little cursive-filled volumes, in a box, on a shelf, obscure even to me, a writer, who loved the writer of them.
Minna was born in the United States in 1898 but her family had emigrated from Lodz, in Poland, 60 miles southwest of Warsaw – where my grandfather Jack’s family also came from. A self-described flapper, she would have naturally gravitated to the luxurious furs my grandfather’s company manufactured. They moved to Long Island, to a gracious home, then back to Manhattan, on Central Park West, with a window overlooking the mammoth grey rocks I liked to climb as a child. It was in this period, when I was small and she was mature, that she and Jack took the world by storm, going to France, Japan, India, Russia, Cuba and many more.
The last I remember of her traveling was something that did not have to do with her actual travels, something imaginary. When she was in her eighties, ailing with a heart condition, she told me nonsensically that she went out flying during the night. The wanderings of a person at the end of her life. Soon after her death, her notebooks were put away, for future generations more accustomed to keeping a blog than keeping a diary. Is posting on line any more profound than taking a pen – or even a pencil – to paper? I think not. It’s just something that we do, Minna and I, honing our personal observations for no reason other than because we can.