Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Permanent Records

I never would have started this blog back in 2011 if it wasn't for my daughter-in-law.  A few years earlier (the first time she moved really far away from her folks), she had started one of her own.  She likes to write anyway, so she figured it was a really good way of keeping her family informed about all the new things she was experiencing half a country away.  When I found out about her blog, I started going through her archives and reading all her old posts. What an interesting thing to do!, I thought.  Around the same time, I discovered Ree Drummond's popular "Pioneer Woman" blog through an article in Good Housekeeping.  But other than those two blogs--PW and my girl's--I had literally never read another blog in my life and wouldn't have known where to go to find one.  (A techie/computer geek/normal 21st-century human I am not.)

"If I were younger, I think I might like to blog," I commented offhandedly to my daughter-in-law.

"You should do it!  It's easy," she replied, and then she taught me how to get all set up on eBlogger.  And (get ready for cheesiness), the rest is history. 

Having majored in English in college (and having loved writing papers for my literature courses to a degree that was probably both strange and unhealthy), I thought the writing part would be fun, just for its own sake.  Maybe I could write my blog as a way of keeping a permanent record of many of our family stories and memories, I thought.  It could be a sort of e-scrapbook that my husband or sons could look at any time they wanted to with just the click of a mouse.  Of course, when I started out, I thought it was really too bad that I was an old almost-empty-nester when I wrote my first post, because the finer details of so many of the tales I could have told about being a busy young mother to four boys born within four years, and then a fifth who came along five years later, were becoming hazy, due to my fifty-something brain and my rose-colored glasses.  And having been a stay-at-home mom since 1983, the whole RAISING BOYS thing was all I knew.  If only blogging had existed back in the day, I thought.

But then I realized that there are really no rules here; if I wanted to, I could blog about anything and everything that interested me.  All of my posts didn't have to be about my family (although that is my favorite writing topic).  I could blog about clothes, home decor, or recipes.  I could blog about growing up, and the early years of my romance with my husband, so that my sons could know who we were before we became "Mom" and "Dad."  I could just do random navel gazing, and subject you to a stream-of-consciousness flow of ideas that happened to be flitting through my brain at any moment (sure, anyone would be interested in that...not).  I could blog about art (another favorite topic).  And since I was horrified by the way the Internet was so often used for evil purposes (one of these days I'll tell you what happened when my fourth son, who was about eight or nine at the time, innocently typed in "guinea pig" so that he could learn how to care for his new pet), I could use my little "String of Pearls" to blog about the beautiful and much maligned Catholic Faith.

Switching gears a bit here.  Are any of you old enough to remember "Doogie Howser, MD"? (That TV show was Neil Patrick Harris' big claim to fame many moons before he became the break-out star of "How I Met Your Mother.")  Every episode ended the same way, with Doogie sitting down at his computer and typing up a few thoughts about his day.  Before computers, we would have called this sort of activity "keeping a diary."  If that show was set in the present time, however, Doogie would no doubt be a blogger.

You know what?  I actually did that, too, some years back.  I kept a diary of sorts, saved in my Word documents, and I tried to sit down and write in it, Doogie Howser-style, almost every night.  I did this for a couple of months, and then I lost my perhaps when I was a young mother, I wouldn't have had the requisite drive to blog on any kind of regular basis after all.

Luckily, however, I'm a hard copy sort of girl at heart, because I did print out all of these diary entries, and I put them in plastic sheet protectors in a binder (along with writing, I think I love plastic sheet protectors to a strange and unhealthy degree).  Had I not done so, when the old table top computer I used to write them went kaput I might have lost them forever. Here is part of a poignant entry from April 2001, when our oldest was near the end of his junior year in high school and thinking about college applications, and our youngest was an eight-year-old homebody who was never, ever going to leave us:

"Poor J, he's starting to become aware of the fact that it won't be much longer before S doesn't live at home all the time anymore.  The two of us were in the car one day, and somehow the subject of college came up.  Obviously, J has overheard us talking to S about where he'd like to apply, and I guess it's been on J's mind.  Anyhow, J asked me why people go so far away for college.  I told him not everyone does, and that if he wanted to live at home and go to UNH, that would be fine.  That was reassuring.  ("Yes, that's what I'll do. I don't ever want to live anywhere but in our house.")  With that fear assuaged, I then tried to make him realize that even if S goes to Notre Dame, he'll come home on vacations and he'll still stay close to our family.  A light bulb went on:  "You mean he's going to SLEEP there?"  I guess it was the first time he really understood what going away to college means, that you don't come home every night to sleep.

It was heart-breaking.  He didn't cry, he did something that in a way is even harder to see; he turned his head away from me and tried to get his face under control, fighting tears like a little man.  J does this a lot.  He rarely cries, but he gets this face that is on the verge, fighting mightily--like a dam holding back the flood--and the most you see is a little moistness in his eyes.  I had all I could do not to cry myself (the subject of S going away is hard enough for me without seeing how devastating it is for J).

A few days later, his [second grade teacher] showed me what he'd written in his journal, and it went something like this: "In a year and a half, my brother S is going to go to college and I'm going to miss him a lot.  Then the next year, my brother D is going to go to college and I'm going to miss him, too."  I think he put in the part about D because a few days after our talk in the car about S, the boys were joking about who was going to get to move into S and D's room when S left, and D was saying we should keep S's part of the room as a shrine (so that he could have his own room).  So we were saying that M would probably move in, and then the next year when D went, we would have to decide what the room situation would be. J was just quietly taking this all in, smiling like everyone else, because it was a funny conversation--a pre-Rosary talk, of course.  But all the time he must have been realizing that once S goes, it won't be long before the others go, too.  This poor little guy, it's going to be so hard for him to watch them go, one by one, and then to be the only one at home from 8th grade on."

Just thinking of that sad little incident in the car, and that sad little second grade journal entry, makes me feel verklempt--all these years later.

But you know, that boy who promised he would never live anywhere but in our house went off to Notre Dame, just like his older brothers did.  And instead of spending the summer between his sophomore and junior years here at home, he's been living it up in Paris!  He left his mama looking like this at the airport almost six weeks ago.
Unfortunately, I'm not as good at getting myself under control as he was when he was only eight!

But after a good, hearty crying jag, I got it together and felt truly happy that he'd been given this extraordinary opportunity.  A paid summer internship in France!  It doesn't get much better than that.  I mean, here he is at Notre Dame (the one in Paris, not the one in South Bend).
And my husband was even able to bid Paris trips this month, so he was able to do a little sight-seeing with our boy over there just a few days ago... 
...and my baby will finally be back home on Saturday.  Huzzah!

He leaves again a few days after that, however, to go down South to Army Airborne School...but I'm trying really hard not to think about that right now, and not to hold it against him after his long-ago vow to be with us always...

Wow, that post got long.  If you're still reading this, sorry about that!  

Ahh, blogging really is the bomb, isn't it?  (Are the kids still saying that?)  It can even be used to make the world a better place (for an example of this, check out the "Operation Laundry Room Recovery" icon on the right side of this page).

But I really better sign off now.  I'll see you demain...probablement.


  1. Wonderful you have those notes. I too have a few stashed away from pre-blogging days. My ds7 tells me he isn't going to leave home either. He cried the other day at the thought of having too.

    1.'s so sweet when they're little like that and can't imagine not living at home with Mom and Dad. They cry when they're young (and then we cry when they grow up and leave!).

  2. I absolutely love this post!

  3. What a blessing that you had done some journaling earlier and had actually kept your journal! It's so neat to see young moms doing blogs because their families WILL have a record of the kids growing up (assuming that the blog posts don't get lost in the ether over time). Boy, I sure hope that we won't have to print out all our posts to make sure that they last over several decades!

    1. Anna, I am so untrusting when it comes to the Internet that I have been printing out my blog posts and saving plastic sleeves in binders. (Does that make me crazy?) I really want my sons and grandchildren to have them later.

      I'm now about three months behind, so I may end up giving up that practice. I blog almost every day, so it takes a lot of paper and binders to keep hard copies.

      But I'm with you: young moms blogging is the coolest thing. I give them so much credit for using what little free time they have to record all those family memories for posterity.