A diary is such a treasured, sacred little book, holding secret thoughts, the most private of details.
Until your mama finds it.
Then nothing is secret or private or remotely sacred any more.
Mama found my diary when I was around 7. I had written that I loved everybody but hated my P.E. coach. Mama found it sweet that I loved the rest of humankind and all critters but wondered why I hated my coach.
I poked my lip out, embarrassed and upset she had found the diary and retreated to my room to the solace of my stuffed animals. They never stole peeks into my diary. Nor did they think my youthful love for the word ‘cute.’
“What kind of diary did you have when you were a little girl?” Cole asked out of the blue one day.
I couldn’t remember how it looked, but I remembered the small brass lock on the side, with the key hanging off. Lot of good that lock did.
“I want a diary,” Cole said. “But I need a box with a lock first.”
I wasn’t sure how the two were related, so I asked him.
He gave me that expression that only an omnipotent 9-year-old can offer. “Um, Mama, I have to have a box with a lock to hide it in.”
I was a little slow on the uptake that day. “Why?”
The look – again.
“So you and Daddy won’t read it.”
“Sweetheart, do not worry. I won’t read your diary.”
“How do I know that?” he asked.
“Because I am giving you my word.”
He thought about that. I am a pretty trustworthy parent. If I say I am going to do something – even if it is something I may not be particularly excited about doing, like taking him to a community pool full of other people’s nook and cranny dirt – if I say something, I do it. Lamar, on the other hand, may not.
“What about Daddy?”
“Your father won’t bother your diary,” I promised.
He wasn’t absolutely certain of this.
“I still want a box. With a lock.”
“OK, we will get you a box with a lock.”
The box with the lock was no problem. I had a neat little wooden box with a latch on it that a small padlock fit through. He was happy with that. Now, to find the diary.
Not an easy task, finding a diary for a young boy’s confidential thoughts to be transposed. Most of the little books I found were bedazzled with fairies, princesses or bright, colorful flowers.
“You may have to just use a small, plain notebook,” I suggested as we surveyed the offerings one afternoon.
This did not make my child happy. If anything, he wanted something unique. Not just a small composition notebook.
Finding nothing, we returned home. He did have the really neat wooden box with a lock on it that he could put his top-secret stuff in. Until, he forgot where he put the key.
“I can’t find the key,” he told me in a hurried voice one evening. “And my best Pokemon cards are in there.”
No key to be found. We searched high and low, near and far. In all my best hiding places too, thinking he may have stuck it there. The key was not there but I did discover I needed a new, better hiding place; my emergency Dove chocolate was gone.
“Break the lock,” he solemnly asked of me.
“No,” I said. “That will break the latch and then it won’t lock.” I tried picking it but my lock picking skills are rusty.
“Let’s give it until tomorrow,” I suggested. “I don’t want to break it and then you not be able to use the box to put your diary in – when we finally find you one.”
He nodded, giving me a gentle hug. “Thank you, Mama,” he said.
Sure enough, the next day, he found the key and was able to retrieve his Pokemon cards from their safekeeping.
“I am glad I didn’t have you break the lock,” he began. “But now, I don’t think a diary will really fit in there. Look…” he held the box open for me to see. “It’s not really big on the inside.”
It wasn’t. But at the same time, I doubted we would ever find a diary for him.
Then, wonder beyond wonder, we found something almost, just almost perfect. It was a journal, but not just any journal. The cover was made to look like a vintage comic book, with Spider-Man crawling up the side of a building on the front. In the sea of pink, paisley and floral blank books – a journal a boy could use. And of course, Batman mechanical pencils were required as well.
“It won’t fit in the box,” Cole said, eyeing his new book.
“It will be OK,” I promised. “We won’t read it.”
He happily started scribing away. What, I don’t know, but he was busy writing in his new journal.
Mama called the other day. I thought she was crying at first.
“What is wrong?” I asked.
“I have been going through Granny’s stuff,” she began, trying to catch her breath. “And I found another one of your diaries.” She chortled some more. “Oh my Lord, Kitten … you were precious. Listen to this: Busy, busy day today: Ate breakfast, watched my cartoons, read a book. Whew! What a day.”
She roared with laughter.
“Hey. For a chubby kid, that was a lot.” My cheeks were burning, 30 plus years later. That was sacred stuff. I can only hope my grandmother had put it away for safekeeping. Not to laugh raucously at my lack of social life.
“You put in here ‘My coach is not quite as tough as he thinks he is. No man wearing those shorts is that tough.’ Why did you have it in for that coach?” she asked between her peals of laughter.
“Because, he told me I was chubby once and needed to run laps. I knew I was chubby. I didn’t need a coach telling me that when I was a child.”
“Well, this is good stuff. You want me to keep this for you?”
“I want you to put it back where you found it and stop reading it. That was personal. It was my private diary!”
Mama didn’t think so. She thought it was, in her words, “precious.”
I was mortified.
Cole had nothing to be worried about. His parents would always respect his privacy and never dream of breaching his sacred writings.
His Nennie, however, was a totally different nosy story though. To her, nothing was sacred.