Friday, November 9, 2007

Paging through the Past

I got out L.'s journals and went through them when Big was at preschool and Little A was napping. I finally made a decision: I'm sending L.'s son the notebooks his mother wrote between ages 10-16. These provide a sweet, touching, funny window into his mother's personality and will give L.'s son a better idea of how she spent her time when she was around the same age he is. But they do not contain anything that a 15 year old motherless boy might misinterpret as hurtful or disturbing like some of the later journals do. Those notebooks I will send when he is over eighteen.

There was an entry in the journal from the last year of L.'s life that really struck me. The obvious path for L. after high school was to earn a doctorate and eventually teach at a university. But she got pregnant as an undergrad and decided to keep the baby. This alone did not have to end those plans, because she did return to school and graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, etc. despite having an infant. But L. had pretty thoroughly rejected the old life plan at the time of her death. From the outside she seemed to be foundering.

I know that L.'s parents were disappointed and fearful that L. was wasting potential, living hand-to-mouth in an apartment as a single mother and working what they probably felt was a job well beneath her abilities. And usually that would have driven L. crazy, would have eventually drawn her back toward the "approved" life. That was her mode: To be attracted to the dark and risky and dramatic things in life, but to retreat back to the conventional and safe when it got scary, all the while feeling disgusted with herself for not being brave enough to follow through more.

Now I think maybe that was changing when she died. I think that if only she had lived longer, everyone would have looked back at that "slacker time" and realized she was not foundering at all, just lying fallow. And we all would have agreed that was when L. became a true adult who faced her life with clearer eyes, and who built a foundation for something new with her very own hands.

But as always, L. said it best herself:

I'm reading this book Possession, about two academics researching the lives of poets. I realized tonight how glad I am that I am not in that life. It would have been easy to slip into the life of the cerebral brain and the reference and footnote and paper and book -- I'm good at that, and for so long I thought it was all I was good at or good for.

And instead I am in the life of the body and the emotions and hopefully the spirit, too -- The life of other people and flesh and pain and ecstasy and complication and uncertainty and blood and ambiguity and danger and risk and smells and tastes and fear and joy and acting and coming and merging with people, events, and places.

And this is so much better for me -- I am seeing my other possibilities and what else is in the world besides life in a book, and a brain in a jar.

1 comment:

meg said...

Wabi, this sounds like the best solution. He can read about her all he wants, but not read anything too heavy. I do think that there is a big difference between 15 and 18.

I think you made a great decision. Are you going to tell him there are more to come, or just send them later?