Today was the sixtieth anniversary of the day I started my diary.
As I recall the inspiration which motivated the start of my “journal”, (which is what I called it once I discovered “only girls kept diaries”,) was a book I discovered on a shelf at home that was written in 1906.
March 24, 1962 was a Monday, and I assume it was the start of Spring Vacation because I wasn’t going to school. (Easter that year wasn’t until April 22, so we didn’t call it “Easter Vacation.”)
To fill in some background: “Dennis the Mennis” was a comic book character, (sort of a suburban Tom Sawyer, or a Calvin without a Hobbs, though he did have a dog named “Ruff”.)
My aim was to tell of my own impish boyhood. I wanted to have the tale be warm and fuzzy. At some point, (perhaps a few years later), my grandfather plaintively expressed how he wished he had kept a diary he could refer to, (being at that time 74, and fated to live to age 90,) and I recall being deeply impressed.
“The Short Stop” was a book by Zane Grey. I was an avid reader, for a boy just past his ninth birthday.
“Monkey Monster” was a game played in an enormous copper beech in front of the house. The tree had long, low branches. The person dangling from the branches was the “monkey”, and the person running around on the ground was the “crocodile” attempting to grab the “monkey.” My younger brother was four, so I had a distinct advantage.
The shoes I had left at school were my dress shoes, as opposed to my everyday sneakers. The school wasn’t locked, in those innocent times.
“The fencing match” is actually a trauma, which is why the diary did not continue the next day. (It began again when school let out for the summer.)
One trait of my boyhood diary is that it goes silent when things I really wish I’d written about occur. My parents were two years from the start of an extremely acrimonious divorce, and the “fencing match” involved an athletic woman my father was in the process of having an affair with. Watching him talk to her made me want to cringe. Even at the age of nine I knew “this isn’t right”, and I also knew it was wrong when my Dad stated to my older brothers, “Don’t tell your mother; she wouldn’t understand.” Incidents such as this didn’t fit my reason for keeping a diary, which was to speak of the joys of boyhood. Even the tribulations in “The Real Diary Of A Real Boy” tended to be misunderstandings which, when resolved, brought tears to your eyes. The tribulations of my boyhood were not resolved, and were things I simply did not talk about. Whenever the diary stops I know there was heartache too painful to mention, yet after a period of some sort of recovery the diary always restarts.
As the diary continues on into adolescence, I do start to talk about things which were formally unmentionable, but my responses were often “alternatives lifestyles” which now make me cringe. The damage done by drugs is painfully obvious in the pages, which at times are downright crazy. Then there is a getting-religion and going-straight period of psychology and parapsychology which becomes cultish, and after that there is a reaction to the cults which involves pages and pages and pages of dreary soul-searching. Eventually the diary becomes more sparce, at times little more than lists of chores, because I became more comfortable with writing actual letters to actual people. However now, with the advent of cancel-culture, there are times I revert to the safety of secret pages.
In any case it has been sixty years. Yikes!