by Judy Westergard
oil on canvas
giclee reprints available through
It doesn’t take much to trigger memory. A glimpse of a red diary on a cluttered garage sale table, the book’s small brass key still attached, and I’m back to my junior high days.
My perception of the world was molded by whatever book I was currently reading. Under the Lilacs, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Jane Eyre had great influences on me. Isolation, yearnings, romance all found their way from the pages of stories into the pages of my diary.
I saw no reason to let reality get in the way. If I were to have written what my 8th grade life was really like, those entries would have had all the action and intrigue of a technical manual. I preferred the embellishment of fiction. So every night, under the watchful eye of my imagination, I’d enter exciting events: How Jim breezed past my nemesis Betty Sue at the school sock hop. How he grabbed my hand and led me onto the center of the gym floor. How a Buddy Holly 45 peeled out from a scratchy speaker. And how Jim and I astounded one and all with our American Bandstand-quality dance steps. The lindy, the stroll, the twist...there was nothing we couldn’t do. And of course, how Jim and I walked hand in hand to the hallway where he poured me a glass of Coke, and...and...and....
And here’s where my entries always ended. Too young, too naive, too scared to embellish on those “ands,” I ended most of my diary entries with those ubiquitous three dots. But I was 14 and reality didn’t matter. I was busy experimenting with personalities, awkward situations, pretended love interests. More importantly, I was busy learning about who I was within the safety of my diary.
Do kids today lock their experimental personas into little red books with miniscule brass keys? They seem to be so busy with Facebook and texting. Good connections, sure, but my little diary gave me something I wish I could give them: the opportunity to learn about who they are becoming without having to share their newly forming personalities before they're ready.