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Her Mother's Teenage Journal

Posted Aug 12 2008 4:20pm

So, which would it be, I wondered? Which of the two books I am reading would qualify for the final FoodShed Summer Reading Pick of the Week for 2008? Each day this past week came and went, yet I have yet to finish either of the books. They are both slow going--one, boringly, and one, deliciously .

Then, just yesterday, my older daughter said, out of the blue, "Can I read your old journals?"

I forget about them, the journals, that for so many years, probably close to twenty, comprised my most beloved daily ritual. All through high school. All through college. All through those first couple years living in New York City, first Brooklyn, then Manhattan. I stopped writing them shortly after I got married, since little by little I found myself not being so blatantly open in them out of consideration of not hurting anyone's feelings if something were to happen to me. Once you start thinking like that, let's face it, the journal days are pretty much numbered.

Yet all these earlier ones exist, and years ago I had told myself that I would let the girls read them when they were the age I was when I wrote each one. Now, don't worry, I somehow had the foresight to develop a complex code when I was in 6th grade that I could write just as fast as English and that I used consistently throughout all the journals for anything that was really, really private. You can be reading along and then, suddenly, a line or two (or paragraph, or page!) in code appears. (I didn't feel at all comfortable using this code once I got married.)

And so, I found myself on the floor in the closet (all the journals are in one of my three "in case of emergency evacuation" boxes), wrapped up in the daily grind and moments of insight of all my former selves. Frankly, much of it was quite painful, the person I've become today really a very different person in many ways from the hungry-to-be-understood teenager I had been. Yet the love of the outdoors, the intense attraction to the beauty of the changing light, and the desire for simplicity was all there, right from the beginning.

Obviously, I can't give you these books to read. It was all I could do to knock on my daughter's door last night and hand her the first real one (I have written them since I was about eight, but the first handful are more like date books rather than journals). I suggested it might be less weird to try to read it like a novel instead of like her mother's teenage journal, but, in reality, I just need to shut up and let her do what she wants with it. Knowing her, she'll probably crack my code, and then I'm doomed! But imagine the conversations we'll get to have . . .

So, as my final FoodShed Planet Summer Reading Pick of the Week (yes, school starts again Monday here in Atlanta, if you can believe it), I invite you to go find your former selves, wherever they may live in your closet or dusty attic, in whatever form you saved them. And visit with them, remind yourself who you were and how far you've come. Discover some old dreams you may have forgotten. Play that instrument. Use those pastels. Tie on those sports shoes. And celebrate not just the changing light but the parts of the changing you that still live deep inside you.
Nurturing sustainability close to home and around the world. (And other food for thought!)

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