Wednesday, October 20, 2010


My mother certainly wasn’t the first person to keep a diary. It seems to me that diaries have been kept by folks like Anne Frank, a Mad Housewife, and a Wimpy Kid since tiny little books with keys were invented. So my mother certainly wasn’t the first diary-keeper and certainly won’t be the last.

What makes my mother’s diaries so unique is that she kept them for 52 years, from 1954 to 2005. That's a long time, even for a persistent Norwegian. She only stopped writing on a regular basis in 2005 because she suffered a stroke that short-circuited her ability to write and concentrate.

These are not your typical soul-searching, tell-all diaries. After all, my mother is a good stoic Norwegian who strives to be decent and modest. It would never do to write in her diary that ‘today is a bad day and I feel the need for mood-altering medications.’

As I’ve mentioned before, self-respecting retired people have a project going at all times. (Remember when I did Tom’s family tree and the family picture-scanning projects?) Here’s my latest project: transcribe my mother’s diaries, scanning in the seventy bazillion newspaper clippings, recipes, obituaries, and miscellaneous scraps of paper tucked within the pages, so that everyone in the family can have access to the historical record.

It makes me a little tired to think about all that transcribing. (And I’m sure it makes my family weary to think about reading any of it once it’s transcribed.)

So far, I’ve read through the entire year of 1954 and transcribed the first half of January. During 1954, my mother baked over 600 loaves of bread (six loaves twice a week), taught my youngest sister to walk, entertained relatives by the '54-Packard-load, survived blizzards, moved a family of eight from one farm to another, canned every type of fruit and vegetable known to man, knitted, sewed, patched, washed clothes, ironed those same clothes . . . and had two Toni permanent waves.

It’s not the stuff of epic movies.

But it gives a picture of what life was like in rual West Central Minnesota in the 1950s. And it might solve arguments like “What year did Great Aunt Christie have her foot amputated due to diabetes?” You know, the type of questions that mushroom into those heated, knock-down-drag-out, shoot-your-cousin arguments on family holidays.

So that’s what I’ll be working on in my spare time between now and . . . I don’t know . . . how do you say “eternity” in Norwegian? “Eeuwigheid?” No, wait a minute. That’s Dutch. Anyway, there are 12 five-year diaries, and my mother has tiny handwriting.

At the very least, it will keep me off the streets and out of the bars.


Elaine said...

Off the streets and out of bars??? Girl, you aren't going to have time to eat, breath, buy groceries, take pictures of the grandkids, go to church, or walk 2 to 4 miles a day. I give two thumbs up for persistence and attitude!

Elaine said...

And what about your birthday??? How will you fit that in?

2to4aday said...

Elaine: Well, it took my mother 50+ years to live and write these diaries. I figure it won't take me quite that long to transcribe them. Hopefully I'll be done before I'm 92. :)

Anonymous said...

looking forward to the end product--Grandma Nettie

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

That's a pretty ambitious project! Go for it!