There it was lying in the bottom of a dresser drawer. A diary given to me by my mom when I was a little girl. She had written my name and address inside the front cover with the date, June 1956.
I never wrote in it.
But she did.
Leafing through the pages, I discovered a detailed account of my first and only trip to Sweden. The summer she took me to meet my grandfather. She hadn’t seen him in twenty years. Mom and I boarded the SS Stockholm on June 29 and returned home on September 19, 1956.
(While there, we learned that our Swedish ship had collided with Italy’s SS Andrea Doria while returning to New York City. Fifty-one lives were lost in what became one of history’s most infamous maritime disasters. We were forced to book passage back home on the SS Kungsholm. An interesting historical detail of our travels).
There are many events I’d forgotten about our journey. But how wonderful Mom recorded them all. From a running description of the weather; to names of aunts, uncles and cousins; to what we ate for dinner; to the gifts we distributed to loved ones. I devoured every page, reliving my trip of a lifetime.
While we spent most of our time on the family farm, we made a few excursions by train into neighboring countries. I remember seeing the fjords of Norway, Laplanders in Finland, and the famous Tivoli Gardens of Denmark. But living on the farm was my favorite part of our stay. It was a rare experience for a little girl who knew nothing but city living.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I had milked a cow, but how fun it was to read Mom’s description of my experience. She said I rode the wagon behind my great uncle as he plowed the hay fields. No wonder I’m catapulted back to that farm whenever the fragrance of hay fills my senses. I’m thankful Mom’s diary made those memories come alive.
She briefly alluded to the day I bumped my head on a chest sending a family heirloom smashing to the floor. It’s one of those embarrassing childhood experiences I’ve never forgotten. I learned that Aunt Alma graciously comforted me and was able to glue it back together.
As I skimmed the pages of my diary, I found that the main house where we stayed was built in the 1600’s. The family lived there only in winter. They dwelled in a smaller summer home in warmer weather. That’s where we ate all our meals. I didn’t remember there was a separate little building made for bathing. More details my young mind had long forgotten.
We visited my grandfather’s “stuga” at a lake where he fished. It was old and run down, and I couldn’t imagine ever sleeping in such a place. I’m sure there were spiders in every corner. Strange what stands out to a child! Mom wrote that he took me out on his rickety pier to catch a fish. I think it was the only thing we ever did together.
While I loved reading every page of the diary, I longed for a glimpse inside Mom’s heart. She recorded the events. Yet neglected the emotions.
What was it like seeing her father after 20 years? Was she scared traveling so far without my dad by our side? How did it feel meeting aunts, uncles and cousins for the first time? How emotional were our goodbyes? Did she wonder if she’d ever see her dad again? I wanted to know. But my Scandinavian mother didn’t write about her feelings.
Except for her last entry:
“Today was a sad day when we had to leave all our relatives we have learned to love so dearly.”
Those words are cherished. Mom did give me a glimpse inside her heart.
I learned a lesson from this diary.
Record your family stories, but reveal your emotions in the details.
Every family needs a scroll of remembrance. You know God is writing one. (Malachi 3:16)
Maybe we should, too!