September 2, 1996

Beverly Nordberg


Earlier this year as I was rummaging through a box of memorabilia I came across two diaries that I kept from 1939 to sometime in 1946. Most of the entries were brief and often inscrutable:

May 7, 1939 — It’s a cloudy day. This evening we went to Thieme's. We three girls went upstairs and talked.

But as I skimmed through the first five years' worth of entries, I saw a picture of my change from a 12-year-old interested in doing things with my family and friends, to a teen-ager in high school with other interests — mostly boys, it seems. The diary lasts through 1946, including my marriage to Bob and its first few months.

So the thought crossed my mind that I'd try another journal, beginning with my 70th birthday, chronicling my seventh decade. Perhaps I'll find out “Why are we in this world?” for myself, instead of the Boston Catechism's version. Or on a more mundane level, perhaps one day in my eighties I'll be lying in my bed in a nursing home, and want to recall earlier times in detail. I told Jeanne Taggett that, and she laughed, as is her wont, and said she'd probably have to read it to me. This time I plan to make more extensive entries, writing as the mood or events call me, rather than writing about inconsequential day-to-day events.

This is a personal journal. I hope by keeping it that way I can be honest in my attempts to understand myself and the happenings and thoughts that will make up my days. The seventies are years in which many changes may take place as I grow older; maybe a journal will help me see the big picture.

One of the books I've just finished reading is Milan Kundera’s Slowness. In it his characters are preoccupied by “dancers,” people who are ever-conscious of how they are seen by others. On one hand dancers, because of their constant awareness of public view, may be said to have a “pact with the Devil,” condemning themselves to “being irreproachable.” But on the other hand, says Kundera, the dancer makes a pact ''with the Angel: he seeks to make life a work of art'' (pp. 21-22). My goal will be the latter interpretation, and I'm my own audience — not too self-serving nor too severe — I hope.

I am excerpting here yearly summaries and other material of interest from the much more extensive manuscript. The interest I find in my mother's journal is precisely the same as she notes in reviewing her early diaries and noting the evolution and development over time. – Paul