I was recently reorganizing my journals. In all truth I am trying to consolidate a jumble of unrelated thoughts and pull them together in some organized fashion. Unfortunately, so far the result is a jumble of cutout pages from two journals that were tossed, another set of journals where I have tried to keep related thoughts together, two new journals, of which one is already christened with a new book idea, and my loose-leaf journal in which I’m supposed to be organizing the ideas for my “main” book.
One of the journals I kept is the closest thing to what you would consider to be a diary. Now, I don’t write in it every day, the writings aren’t even dated, and it’s not necessarily a ‘what happened’ kind of thing, it’s just random thoughts. In this journal I write a lot about family, different memories and other things that grab my attention for more than a fleeting moment, but definitely a lot about family. I do it because they are important to me and because I sometimes have trouble with the depth at which I keep my family, the emotions, what it all really means, and because it can be tough with the little time I do get to spend with them all (I live half a country away from my mom’s side). Back to why I brought up the journal though. I came across an entry where I write about one of my cousins. I can tell it’s from a couple of years ago. I talk about seeing “J” during the trip. On my previous trip out west, he was away for work, so it really had been years since the last time I saw him.
Now J and I only got to spend a few hours together. He got back from a work trip the day before I was leaving to come home. However, in that few hours, and even now rereading the entry and describing it here, it reminded me of everything that IS him. On the one hand, we were there, sitting at his mom’s dining table, and on the other hand, we were kids again, playing and laughing. Even then you could see the caring man he would become. He was there with me, even though he had just gotten back, had only briefly seen his wife and kids and had only said hi to the siblings he had chanced to see. He had specifically come to see me, the cousin from a million years ago. He didn’t know it then, but he was just what I needed. While some of the discussion was a subject I avoided around my family (my mother), I could sense the love and concern. For those few hours, J wasn’t just my cousin, he was my big brother. Some of it was annoying, because well, it’s annoying when siblings are right, but it felt good.
Authenticity at its most intimate. People like J are who they are, regardless of whether or not you sit with them for an hour, or interact with them all the time. The love, care and concern were real, not just because we are cousins, but because J is who he is and nothing can disguise it. It makes the memory so vivid. For me, that memory underscores the importance of family, and memories like it are why I now go out of my way to visit every year.
Memories are important to who we are, they can also be important to who we want to be. In writing, they can be important to who we shape our characters to be. I want to build a character that reminds me of J, reminds me of that moment, in a scene as authentic and thought-provoking as it was with us.
So why did I bring this up? Because coming across that entry, I’m glad I wrote down that memory. To be honest, it’s only six lines in the journal. But look at this post. Out of those six lines, I can write over 600 words. And in the end, the most important piece, what started the whole thing, those six lines, were written down on a whim, in a journal of random thoughts. And now, those six lines make me remember.
Do you write down memories? What thoughts capture you as you stare out a window, wind down for the night, or as you shower in the morning? My suggestion? Write them down every chance you get. Six lines, six words, or six paragraphs.