Tag: journals

Part Five: They Took Me For Granted

All horrified baby boomer parents should take note that these rants happened exclusively on the pages of my journals. At least until full blown puberty freed me to do such effective things as slam doors and refer to my family as “you people.”

In preadolescence, as I frequently remind my imaginary readers, I’m a really just good kid with a lot of rage bottled up inside.

My messy room would feature more prominently than any other source of conflict between my mother and me.

Slave labor. Clearly I am HATING it.

As I remember it, my clutter and crap drew unholy volumes of rage from my mother.  I was REALLY messy. Some of my messes live on in family lore. Like the time she found a body outline where I’d been lying, traced in wrappers, pencils, and scraps of paper. Or the time my homeroom teacher described me as a “mobile nest.”

Sometimes shit got real between us.

August 10, 1995- My mom just spanked me. I’m astounded. I’m HUMILIATED. I’m disturbed. I’m quite MAD! I am NOT a 2 year-old. Two shirt tags on the floor and she spanked me. Furthermore, so what about stupid shirt tags. She just won’t give me my SPACE. Gosh, I’m on an electric leash it feels like. She won’t let me stay up late. She won’t let me see PG13 movies.

Before alcohol would help me loudly fail to resolve my issues, I had an equally unhealthy coping routine. After smiling and saying “yes sir/ma’am” I would go to my room, scream into a pillow and find something I could tear to pieces. Once I had said all of the swear words I knew into the pillow and destroyed some piece of doll clothing or school art project, I would journal.

Or I would move out.

Feb 26, 1994-Ohh this is a terrible Saturday. First I had to clean out my closet. Ewww, you should have seen it. My mom got mad at me so I moved out. I took everything essential books, money, food, drink and blankets. So I lived in my own “house” for around two hours. But then I moved back after I realized I had no extra clothes, VCR, TV, RADIO, NES, ELECTRICITY or heater!

Lest we think that my mom was the only target of my indignant malice, let me assure you that my dad got his fair share.

Aug 9, 1992-I’ll give you one word to describe my Dad slave driver he makes us clean up the playroom while he sits on the couch.

That’s two words, eight-year-old Bekah. And now as a parent myself, I have to admit I feel an ironic sense of anticipation as I clean up the playroom messes I did not make, and dream of the day my toddler is old enough for me to say “clean up your mess in the playroom” and expect it to be done without assistance.

Here I am, sharing the spotlight with my decidedly less impressive siblings.

Another oft-cited grievance was the feeling that I was being taken for granted.

March 29, 1994 -Well today I got up at 3:30 am and went pig hunting. We came back and hung out until dinner time. Then while playing I hit my knee REALLY hard on a piece of wood. (I still can’t walk on it.) Then Andy jumped from the top and broke his arm. Tonight when we prayed, EVERYBODY prayed for him but no, no, not me! (Out of modesty I didn’t pray for my leg.)

This one is particularly cringeworthy, because not only did poor “Andy” break his arm, but he ruptured his spleen and would spend the next three days in the hospital recovering from a partial splenectomy. My huge crush on him was forgotten the instant he stole the spotlight by being more critically injured than I was.

It was one of my secret Anne-of-Green-Gables-inspired fantasies to be seriously ill or injured so that 1) whatever boy I liked would be compelled to my bedside to profess his love, and 2) my parents would be sorry for…well, just sorry.

Actually, in the end, I always came around. I knew my parents loved me, and for as strict as they were, I knew I could tell them anything. Though apparently, little did they know, they were being judged on the quality of their gifts, always springing for a treat just in the nick of time. Money can buy the love of a 6th grader. Or at least it can buy the world-weary acknowledgment that you’re not so bad after all.

June 23, 1995-Gotta make this short and sweet. We went to a little circus today. Looks can be deceiving. It was pretty good. My mom and dad are really great. My mom bought me cotton candy and my dad gave me a cool watch. Just today. Nobody asked them to. No reason. I don’t realize how truly unique and special they are until I see other kids’ parents. If I could have picked, I would have picked them. Despite the kinks and dings.

One Day They’ll See…


My journals, dating back to age seven, alternately chronicle my most unflattering and unfiltered thoughts, and the banalities of my day. Mixed in, for flavor, is a fair smattering of misused multi-syllable words and overwrought prayers, finally adding up to the most condescending shitlist ever penned by someone who dots her “i’s” with hearts.

I read some passages aloud to my husband, brother-in-law, and sister (who features prominently in my best diatribes). My sister spent most of the time confirming that I was, yes, a total bitch growing up, and that what I thought were my most hidden thoughts, were really pretty obvious to everyone. My husband and brother in law both said that the diary sounded like it was written by an adult trying to imagine what a little girl’s diary should sound like.

And here I am imagining what a glamorous adult would look like. Age 8.

Being raised on a steady diet of young adult fiction and The Baby Sitters Club, my internal narrator was, in fact, an adult writing in the voice of a child. Only I was a child. So my journals are written in the voice of a child mimicking the voice of an adult writing as a child.

Around 5th grade I started reading the classics, including Little Women, multiple times. I start more than one journal in a deliberately classical tone, imagining myself, I’m sure, writing by lamplight in a dressing gown.

Jan 1, 1995- Well, I’m starting off enough new year of hopes, dreams, friends, family, etc. I hope I will make new friends. I dream of my “castle in the sky” from Little Women. Friends and family, well, they’ve been the same for a while now…I play piano. My practice sessions leave a tiny bit to be desired…You might say I’m a teachers pet. I’m darn proud of it. I have two sisters, Annika, 6, and Kierstn, 3. By the way, my name is Bekah Annell Stolhandske.”

Taking my cue from adolescent literature, I treat my diary like a trusted friend. Or rather, a friend with zero boundaries, who repays my constant whining by dangling obligation over my head.

Daily journals were the worst. I remember a constant sense of guilt as a I scribbled random, inconsequential thoughts before bedtime, just to have attended to the glaring blank space. Several entries begin with apologies for not writing. After a few missed or slapdash entries in a row, I get passive aggressive with my diary.

March 2, 1994- Listen, I have a lot to do! Okay? I gotta go.

That is literally all that is written on March 2.

It’s clear throughout that I have what would be called in adolescent fiction vernacular an “indomitable spirit.” In plain English, I was full of myself.

The prevailing sentiment seems to be one of misunderstood genius, unrealized potential, and untapped stores of romantic energy. In short: I was never given the credit I was due, a would-be starlet surrounded by imbeciles. (See photo above…)

The diaries are on the one hand, things I would never want anyone to read. Whiny, misanthropic diatribes and embarrassing secrets (one from my 3rd grade year simply reads “I pooped in my bed last night”). On the other hand, the woes of misunderstood genius, and the generally affected tone indicate that I actually did intend for these to be read one day.

One entry in particular does away with any pretense of intended privacy:

January 1, 1996

It’s 1996! This is the last entry to this diary. I have REALLY enjoyed this diary. This book is to hold all of my secrets, and maybe some day when I’m famous people will pay money to read this and publish it so this is very important.

Of course, a girl needs a place to actually keep her secrets…so I often kept more than one diary at a time. One for the general public and one to be burnt. Those uncensored journals disappeared along the way. I distinctly remember tearing all the pages out of one of them. I might have forgotten about them entirely except for occasional confessions in my SFW diaries.

May 25, 1995

Well. I thought I could trust my two best friends in the world not to look at my other diary about who I like and go tell it. Then today I had to go to the park with them. Luckily I could keep an eye out for blabbs.

I’m sure I imagined the sanitized diaries would market as a highly selective collection of entries offering a glimpse into my precocious beginnings as a philosopher and story teller, filled with obvious portents of my future in the bright lights.

Nine years old and clearly destined for greatness.

Instead, they have become a source of late night entertainment while we are drinking. In college I nearly threw them away in shame, but I’m glad I kept them. Not only to give me insight into my own daughter as she navigates the Class V hormone rapids of middle school, but to remind myself from whence I have come. The thoughts recorded in the journals are embarrassingly familiar. I now dress them in more socially acceptable verbiage, but I still feel like the unrecognized genius for more often than my work merits.

The journal covers thoughts on God, love, family, justice, money, friendship, and the agonies of childhood. And it does so with almost zero insight, at surprisingly shallow levels, for the most part. Aside from a few sad accounts of wounds that are now old scars, there is nothing moving or poignant in these tomes.

If there is one heartwarming or profound takeaway, it is this: Reading through the journals, I’m released to let my freak flag fly a little higher, because it’s hard to outdo the ignoble musings now forever preserved in writing.

So, in honor of 1996 Bekah, I’m publishing the highlights here, as a series of blog posts over the coming weeks. I hope you are horrified. Please don’t stop being my friend.