Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Makings of a Journal

A few months ago, my Aunt Irene sent me a copy of a page my grandmother had penned. It is the beginnings of a journal. If my scanner were working, I would include the page here for you to see. It is of a style few people use anymore. At first glance you can tell she used an ink pen. There are blotches where a little too much ink flowed from the tip. The writing is cursive and fluid.

When I first looked at this page, my eyes filled up. I had never seen my grandmother's handwriting before, nor read anything written by her. My aunt told me this was all she had ---- one page. But I have this nagging feeling there is more --- somewhere. But where?

A little background. Her name was Mary Elizabeth Sweeney Robertson. She lived in Washington DC until her death in October of 1955 in her late sixties. She bore ten children. Five of her six boys went off to war. One was a  prisoner of war. One wounded on Iwo Jima. All made it  home. She was a woman of faith. She fed people during the Depression, gave to the poor when she had the means, was a self-taught pianist, and a loving but firm mother. If I am counting all my cousins right, she had thirty grandchildren, two of which are authors --- me and Nora Roberts --- one who took the vows of the Anglican priesthood, and another that is a top executive of a major corporation.

I did not get the chance to know her, but through my mother I feel I do. If you do not write in a journal, consider starting. Your grandchildren and great grandchildren will thank you for it. If only I could have the rest of what Grandma Bess wrote!

This book is about myself.
I was married at the age of eighteen and at that time knew very little about life practically nothing. As the years went by I knew what responsibility was. You see, I had ten children, six boys and four girls. So you see I had not time for anything but their wellfare and to try and raise them to be good citizens for God and their country. 

Five of the boys saw duty in World War two, so you see they did their duty for their country. I do hope they are doing as much for God. God did let them all come back home, although they were wounded and one was a prisoner of war for nine months. We never will know what they went through. They never wanted to talk about the horror of war. By their looks when they came home you didn't have to ask any questions. Now they are all married and have families of their own. Their father lived to see all married but Rose (my mother). She was the youngest child, but he knew she was going to be. So I guess he was there at the time it happened.

People have asked me many times if I would like to live my life over. It is wrong to say you would. God gives you your life to live and you should live it close to Him as you can. I thank Him from the bottom of my heart for letting me live as long as He has. I truly hope when I die He will be with me in my last hour.

I cherish the wisdom in her writing. Can you see why I believe there is more? 
Where is the rest of the story? If there is more, how precious would those pages be! To read about her life, about raising ten children, how she got the family through the Depression, the love she had for a man that is said to have adored her, her trials as a mother with sons fighting in Europe and the Pacific. 

I began a journal back in June 1989. Four volumes are complete, and I have a fifth that I'm still writing in. 

Do you write in a journal? 
What would it mean to you to have your grandmother's journal or another ancestors?


Jan Cline said...

Oh my goodness - what a wonderful heritage you have! I envy you finding this page, and learning more about her heart. I recently came across a box of letters, documents and photos of my late mother's first husband. He was killed in WWII - a bomber pilot. I have been trying to piece together their story to do a novel. I so treasure all the hand written things I have - even though it's from someone I never knew. What I wouldn't give for a page from a journal my mother wrote during that time. You are blessed. Thanks you for sharing this.

Rita Gerlach said...

Thank, Jan. Boy would I love to have a box of letters, documents, and photos like you have. I do have a lot of photos, but some handwritten things would be great. My mother thinks she threw away the letters she and my father wrote during the war away years ago. I'll have to post next about my great grandmother and her story...what I know of it. It's very romantic.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Rita -

How wonderful to have even this page! My late husband's grandfather left a diary. We learned our name originally was spelled, "Reinhard." Somewhere along the line, the "t," got tacked onto the end.

Seriously? You're related to Nora Roberts? Has she given you any writing advice?

Susan :)

Rita Gerlach said...

Hi Susan,
Yes Nora and I are first cousins. When I first started writing all she told me was to ignore the rules. At that time there were books out telling writers they should never use 'was', ing or ly words. Use them sparingly, but eliminating them entirely is crazy.
I don't see her unless I go to the annual family reunion. But I can reach her when I want to. I don't usually mention I am related to her. She did not help me to get published or find an agent. Really we are poles apart.

Michelle Reneee Kidwell said...

I have been writing a journal on and off since I was about eight, as I have grown older the journals of course hold more depth, my Grandmother never really journalled but she wrote beautiful encouraging letters, and told wonderful stories that I have been blessed with
In Christs Love