Some Things Should Stay Private

A young girl finds her mother's diary and decides to read it but learns something she didn't expect.

The pages were yellowed with age from my mother’s constant smoking, and the red leather spine cracked as I opened it. My body throbbed with delight, like that pee feeling you get when you’ve found the perfect place for hide-and-seek.  I had waited until the time was right to engage in my nefarious act, waited until the house was empty. Even at twelve, I knew I shouldn’t be reading her diary; I knew because of the tantrums I had thrown when my older brother read mine.  But, once I’d found its hiding place, I had to read it as soon as the time was right.

In retrospect, the diary wasn’t truly hidden; it had simply been packed away and forgotten along with mother’s high school year books and the pictures from her first wedding where she wore that ugly blue dress.  However, at that time, it was the unburied treasure of the millennium, and while I knew it was wrong, I wanted to read it anyway.  I longed to know another side of this one dimensional character that I called “mother”, to know the woman she was before the endless diapers and maid duty attributed to me and my brother.  To know what she cared about most, before that ‘most’ was us.

So I read, quickly, hungrily, scanning the pages from intimate details about her and Daddy.  Wanting to read about their first date, first kiss, and all the sweet things he did for her.  I wanted to know all the things they never told me, to find out all of my mother’s secrets and all the things she thought about. Maybe I’d find that it would have entries detailing how I was always her favorite child and that she only acted like she loved my brother.  Maybe I’d find a poem written about how much she hated my grandmother, her mother-in-law, and I would know their happy relationship was a ruse.  Maybe she’d reveal that she acted totally differently before becoming a mother, maybe she was wild.

My hands were sweating because I knew I was unlocking something my mother had kept hidden inside herself and hopefully it would be juicy and insightful.  I prayed that inside those pages was enough gossip and drama to keep me on the edge of my seat like the soap operas that came on T.V. while I was in school but watched reruns of during the summer.

But, the pages didn’t have the scandalous love notes or the sweet nothings my father whispered to my mother in privacy.  There were no poems or pictures, nothing about me or my brother, because we weren’t even born yet.  The pages touched on only one subject.

The diary was filled with too much that I couldn’t know that I didn’t want to know.  The content read like a sad Lifetime movie.  Pages where I had expected to find taboo quotes in my mother’s cosmopolitan script were instead filled with smudged, scrawled sentences addressing her pain and sadness from not being able to conceive. I slowed my reading, capturing her anguish and fear about an upcoming surgery that would hopefully fix whatever was causing the problem.  I noticed the ink smeared from her tears as she confessed to having received her period that morning.  She wrote how the blood made her feel like her dreams were bleeding out of her body.  She ranted through feeling incomplete as a woman and wondered if she was being punished for something in her past.  I was regretting finding this book and realized that there was another woman in these pages but not the wild, care-free one I expected to find.  There was a penetrating sadness that leaked from the pages and absorbed into me.

I flipped through the book and noted the date on the tear stained page and realized it was exactly a year before my brother was born.  The diary stopped only two months later, and I wished she had chronicled that next month so I could see her reaction to becoming pregnant.  I couldn’t know then that the reason she probably stopped writing was because she didn’t need an outlet for her pain anymore.  I closed the book, not finishing the last few entries, too young to fully comprehend the sorrow within its pages, and I never said anything to anyone.  I slinked back to my room feeling like a former hero who had lost the battle.  I didn’t know exactly what I had just discovered about my mother, and I hoped I would never know that kind of grief, but I did know that it was something that shouldn’t be repeated. 


The End

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