Empties


Hearth, 30 x 20


One great thing about video phone calls is you see your face close up. For instance, my wattle is something that I have I have effectively avoided looking at in the mirror but is a visual slice of my conversation.


My children, who will both be done university in a month, are looking older too.


So it is going around.


This mortality poke gets me to thinking about the upstairs cupboard. A pile of plastic Tupperware, the bottom ones cracked under the weight. One ominously titled “1998 and Before”.


My mother was very organized about her belongings before she died.

“Everything you will need is in the bottom drawer of my desk”.

Inspired by the chaos left by her own parents, I appreciated her gesture. I hope to follow her example.


The issue is my journals. Boxes of them.


Writing is how I know what I think; it’s just a habit of sorting things out, in the way you might phone a friend and untangle your thoughts. I write in the middle of the night, or when I am furious. It’s how I navigated a multi-decade inner war about being an artist. One pound of paper at a time, I gradually learned to separate myself from some unhelpful narratives.


My partner Jake also keeps journals. Neither of us has been specific about what will happen to all this material.


A few years ago, Jake’s uncle who was facing his imminent demise on an island in Denmark decided to burn his life’s worth of journals.


Jake and I were both indignant about this. Kjelt had a poet’s eye for detail and it seemed his journals belonged not to him but to the universe. He didn’t even have kids; this was a no brainer.


But my own writing, well…for starters it’s totally boring. And I write in my grouchiest moments.


One or two items might possibly reveal my true inelegance.


Jake’s journals are encrypted so he doesn’t need to worry about this. His handwriting is totally illegible. More than once I have held my grocery list in front of strangers, “Can you read this?”. He says it isn’t true, but I suspect Jake cannot even read his own journals, thereby saving him from the horror of seeing one’s own inner world; smallnesses laid out nakedly.


Worse; repeated year after decade.


A journal bonfire seems Zen, freeing my children from future grief.


More importantly, providing me with an entire cupboard.


I pull out two bins. I find one journal with a padded green cover and Chinese pagodas from my early courtship days with Jake. Another is black with a red spine and when I open it I see Jake’s handwriting. I hand it over to him and it turns out it is from the same period.


When we met, I thought his journal keeping was auspicious; a man with an inner life.


I was then the age my kids are now.


I pick up a later one, May 2000. I had two kids in diapers. It was the kind of writing that while writing it, I would hate for anyone to read. I was clearly a terrible mother. Both kids refuse to nap.


My two-year old son keeps asking for a glasses of water and then sticks his fist in them. My 8-month-old daughter cheerfully eats dirt and envelopes and grass, but refuses pureed carrots. I’m certain at the time I will be nursing her into adulthood. And anyway that’s the only thing I know how to do anymore.

I am furious; Why won’t they be reasonable?


I am surprised at my affection for my young mum self. I send it to my kids. Maybe I won’t toss all this. Maybe my present day-ugly musings on paper will end up being forgivable.


Both our kids keep journals which for some reason surprises me.

Our son even proselytizes on the subject, which is a weird thing for an engineer to do.


When I tell people about my habit, they say things like “Oh good for you!” or “I tried”, as if I were helping the needy and not trash talking infants.


This is how I feel about loud, crowded parties where people remember TV shows I don’t know or banter; “Remembering how drunk you were that time?”.


I’m jealous of the pleasure they have doing it.

I just don’t know how.


Maybe journals are like empties after the party, mildly shameful. But they are not The Party Itself,.


Maybe someone will come to the door, collecting.


“Oh thank goodness. I’ve been hoping you would turn up.”


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