Friday, August 16, 2013

Old Diaries A Treasure Trove Of Historical - And Personal - Information

Dear Mr. Tazi:

My mother passed away a few months ago after a long illness, and my sister and I have finally brought ourselves to the point where we can go through her house and pack stuff up and throw stuff out. While going through Mama’s personal effects we found that she kept diaries over the years. It appears that she would fill one and then put it away in a box before starting another, which she would keep in her bedside drawer.

Mama’s diaries are not the journal style blank books that you find at the bookstore, but old-fashioned lock and key type deals. The locks could easily be broken if we could not find the key, and my sister and I are having a discussion over whether or not we should even look for the key or just destroy the diaries unread.

My sister and I are both wavering between the idea of reading Mama’s diaries and burning them. I was thinking if we find the key we should read them, but only if we come across the key naturally. My sister thinks we should make an effort to look for the key and if we can’t find it that will be a sign from Mama that we should let her diaries alone. I would love to know my Mama’s personal thoughts and history; I think it would help to fill the hole that has been left by her passing, but at the same time I am a little afraid of what I might read and more than a little afraid that I would feel guilty about disturbing Mama’s privacy, even though she is gone from this earth. What do you think we should do, Mr. Tazi?

Mama’s Girls

Dear mama’s Girls:

My deepest condolences on the loss of your dear mother; it sounds like you were both very close to her, and your pain must be quite deep. I can see why you would want to read your Mama’s diaries in order to feel closer to her, and you are wise to remember that these diaries are full of her private, uncensored thoughts.

Because your Mama’s diaries are the kinds that lock I am hesitant to suggest you plunge into them; you may read some things that she revealed in her diary in order to get them off of her chest  and keep her temper with you and your sister – especially in the diaries from your teenage years! On the other hand, your Mama’s illness was a long one and if she wanted her diaries destroyed before her passing she had the time to see to it.
This doesn't look like a difficult lock...
The fact that your Mama kept these diaries – and kept them neatly organized in one box – tells me that perhaps these diaries were meant to be found. I do not suggest that you spend your time looking for the keys to these secured books – that might be like looking for a needle in a haystack – but if you do find them you might want to look for the oldest of the diaries first and work your way forward. If you are lucky you will find diaries from when your mother was a teenager, from when she and your father were courting, her early married life and life as a new mother, right up until the last days of her illness. Read them slowly, and try to picture the things your Mama was describing, imagining what her life was like. This will be a small but wonderful tribute to your Mama.

Should you come across details that you are embarrassed to read, skip over them and allow your Mama to keep those private memories private; if you read something that upsets you remember that even Mama’s have bad days, and that the things she wrote were the things she chose not to say because she knew that if spoken those words would hurt the ones she loved.

If you cannot find the keys to these diaries in the natural course of cleaning out your Mama’s house, let things be and do not try to force the locks of the books; in time, if you are meant to know their contents, the keys will show themselves. If, after a reasonable amount of time,  the keys never show you should do what you and your sister feel most comfortable doing – putting the books on a shelf as a decorative reminder of your Mama, leaving them in storage for another generation to find, or simply burning them. I would not throw them away in the trash, though; somehow that just feels wrong and disrespectful.


Mr. Tazi

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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