For as long as I can remember, I’ve kept a diary. The first one was a Christmas gift from my Nana when I was eight. It was the one with the little key, remember those? That flimsy, metal key made me feel like I was locking away all of my secrets. Of course, anyone could’ve opened it had they wanted to, but there was something about the key that made me feel everything in the pages was “mine.”
As an only child I didn’t hear, “You know when Katie was your age,” nor did I have a brother to torture me and toughen me up. No, it was just me. And my diary.
At the end of the day, I loved filling the pages with stories about school and friends, who was wearing what and, more importantly, which boys we were interested in.
Fast forward thirty-five years, where I’m in the basement of our house, with my teenage son. He’s doing something on his phone and I’m rifling through my mum’s old steamer trunk, filled to the brim with what I like to call, “my treasure.”
I’m looking for…, well to be honest, I don’t know what I’m looking for. A few months prior, my Father had passed away suddenly in Scotland and I think I was looking for something to remind me of him. An old card, a letter he wrote, a photograph, something, anything that might bring me a little comfort in this time of sorrow.
“Who are those presents for?” My son asked.
“They’re not presents.”
He gave me a questioning look
“They’re my old diaries.”
“Why are they wrapped like presents?”
“I don’t know,” I said, shaking my head. “It’s just something I started doing a long time ago.
At the end of the year, when the diary was filled, I’d wrap it up and put it away.”
“Can we open them?”
“No! Absolutely not!” I said, slamming the lid shut.
“Sorry,” he uttered, clearly sensing my discomfort.
The next morning, I found myself back in the basement, where I opened the trunk and grabbed one of the diaries. Just seeing the paper it was wrapped in took me back to when and where I bought it. I carefully peeled back the tape ( it really was wrapped like a present) and took out the diary. The year was 1989.
With my interest piqued, I took the diary upstairs and made a cup of tea. I expected to read a few pages but once I started reading, I got carried away and before I knew it, I was at the end of February and my tea was stone cold.
Each page transported me back to life as a young woman, finding my way, but at the same time, I recognized so much of the person I still am, which took me by surprise. I read all the way to August and only stopped because I had to go to work!
That night, I finished reading about my life in 1989, much of which I hadn’t thought about since then. As well as chuckling over my youthful shenanigans (of which there were plenty) I found myself crying at the memory of how painful it’d been to lose my Nana and other stuff, mostly love related, that had made me sad. I rewrapped the diary, put it back in the trunk and went to bed.
The minute I closed my eyes, my mind began to race;
What if the basement floods?
What if there’s a fire?
How would I feel if all those diaries filled with all those words about all those people I loved were lost?
Because I was still grieving my Father’s passing, the word “loss” didn’t sit well with me, so,
the next morning, I unwrapped 1989 (again!) and began the painstaking task of transcribing each day. It took months to type the entire year of pages, but when I was done, it seemed only natural to continue, with 1990.
I was now dedicating the majority of my time to this project and when friends asked what I was doing, I told them I was writing. Some asked if they could read my “stuff,” and my first reaction was similar to that of when my son had asked the same question. Absolutely not!
In the meantime, I’d also written a play titled, “A Leg Up,” with two other women. The play was very well received and with that newfound confidence, I sent some of my favourite snippets of the diary to several friends.
Much to my surprise, my friends said they loved it and expressed an interest in reading more. They said the diary reminded them of their youth and that they could relate to it in so many ways. They also used a word I love; “Hooked.” They said they were hooked.
Hearing that was enough to give me the confidence to share more so I created some social media accounts and decided I’d start posting on January 1st, 2016. I spent the days prior talking myself in and out of doing so, but somewhere inside, I knew the time had come to throw away that flimsy little key.
My favourite night of the year has always been New Year’s Eve and on that night, 2015, I was home, sitting by the fire with my laptop, ready to go. I’ll never forget the tremble in my hand, when, just after midnight, I hit the button to upload the first post. My first instinct was to immediately delete it and scrap the whole thing but in my head, I heard my Dad telling me not to.
“It’ll be fine,” I heard him say.
He was right.