What I Found Today: a journal resurfaces
I’ve been working on a poem for a poetry challenge I’m doing with my friend Alex, and realized the poem would be greatly enriched by my journal notes on this particular little chapel I saw in Italy in 1993. It was impossible to look it up on the almighty internet because I couldn’t remember what it was called. It’s a small chapel in northern Italy.
You know, there are probably a few of those…
I knew I’d written about it in the travel journal that my sister gave me before I left on my first trip to Europe. My mother and I went to Venice, Florence, and various points in Friuli, and spent a few days in Amsterdam on the way home. The journal held the overly careful notes of a traveler who knows she will probably only pass that way once in her life. I didn’t know that I’d be back with my sister a few years later. So I wrote everything down that I could bear to. I even made some strange little sketches.
Of course, I lost it.
It did come home with me. I knew that, because I’d taken it up to Seattle in 2004, eleven years later, to read to my mother as she was dying. I thought it would calm her down and give her something distracting and lovely to hear. That was a romantic idea, but it had nothing to do with the honest physical struggle involved in her leaving this world. I don’t remember seeing it since that day.
So, this evening I remembered that I’d transcribed the original journal soon after coming back. By hand.
I probably thought I was too honest in the original. It was an interesting time in my relationship with my mother, and I might have recorded some of the more tribulational events of the trip in the original journal. My marriage was a shambles, that probably earned a mention or two. And there was that panicked phone call from the same sister who’d given me the journal, a call that had ruined a lot of the vacation for me. Probably, none of that made it into the duplicate, but that’s okay because my memories of the hard parts are unfortunately sharp.
I didn’t need that stuff. I needed the church stuff.
Excited, the hunt began for the duplicate. Where the hell was it? I checked every bookshelf in the house, and listen, I have so many bookshelves. Finally, I opened the old trunk that sits at the foot of my bed. There, under the Jack Wild scrapbooks and photo albums of past marriages and my high school diploma and senior pictures, I found the duplicate.
That’s a nice little book to write about Italy in, isn’t it? Very Florentine.
Here’s the front page, in which I’ve happily started to edit my reality.
The sad and funny thing about that page is, the Twin Towers are gone.
So, of course, is my mother.
But underneath that duplicate book was this little beauty.
That same book went to Italy and back, and it holds all the truth I need, as well as my notes on the Tempietto in Cividale.
I have the journal back.
I wish I could open a door and find my mother happy, healthy and smiling. But I have this little record of our time together, good and bad, and I’m all set to go on that poem.