Inside one of the 104 boxes of stuff from my mother’s house I found her Daily Reminder book, 1963.
It has a red cover, now tattered around the edges, and pages full of her lovely, ladylike script. Along with mailing addresses for her parents and for the music director at the church there are notations for radio contacts in New York, San Francisco and Miami. My mother was the public relations director for the Maid of Cotton tour, which means nothing now but was apparently a fancy post back in 1963.
Thursday, January 31, 1963: London, Ontario
A rushed day, this way. L. has scheduled shows for afternoon and evening, so no plans for entertainment. We were delighted to be able to eat in the Shamrock Room where the Crew Cuts were the featured attraction.
In 2005 my mother, who had been sick for some time, died suddenly. My children were barely toddlers, and we were midway through renovating a 100 year old house. The hospice nurse said my mother was the strong willed sort and that she would probably have a months-long decline. My mother was the strong willed sort. When she was ready to die, she died, three days after the hospice nurse said it would likely be months.
So there we were, small children, unfinished house, mother’s house to pack. My sister, who lived out of town, and I divvied up the things we knew we wanted – dishes, artwork, furniture. After Margaret returned home and while I tended children, my husband and our dear friend Louie spent six straight nights packing what was left of Betty’s stuff – clothes, knick-knacks, and thousands of books – into liquor store boxes for transport. They tried to be orderly, but they were packing a stranger’s belongings. The best they could be was gentle.
Thursday, February 7, 1963: Miami
First rtw show – and a good one. Jordan Marsh is a lovely store of little shops such as Bendel has.
“Take all of that stuff directly to the Goodwill; do not let it into your house,” a friend cautioned, strongly; but I was too overwhelmed to do it. Bernard wouldn’t have let me anyway. Weeks before she died my mother whispered to him, “Don’t let Jennifer just throw all this stuff away; I have some books that are very valuable, even if she doesn’t want them.”
He and I both knew she was being truthful, though we had no idea what to look for. So he boxed up everything, carefully, and I stored it, carefully, in a room we didn’t plan to use.
Memoranda: Locations for MOC Pix: ‘5th Ave.’ open bus at Six Flags over Texas park outside Dallas
I have been married to almost every sort of daily planner from my first, a Filofax, to my current, from Levenger, with many years of Franklin Covey in between. I began keeping a planner when I left my job teaching art to start a career in marketing and public relations. Before the Filofax there were art journals, six of them, each half-filled with doodles and watercolor sketches and cutouts from various contact sheets.
My daily planners are part calendar and mostly note catchers. I write lists. I jot down ideas. I chronicle meetings. I rewrite lists.
In my 2007 daily reminder book I wrote a plan for dealing with the boxes in the sunroom. I would unpack a box a
week month. During a weekend. But it didn’t happen, not one box.
I transferred that to-do item to 2008’s calendar, but 2008 went quickly awry, as did 2009. No list in a planner could have tamed either of those years.
Expenses: Coffee in room for all: 1.25; Cabs R.C.: 4.00; S. haircut and manicure: 5.75
I decided last December that 2014 would be the year. I didn’t write it down; I just got started.
On Boxing Day I unpacked the first six of Betty’s boxes. On New Year’s Day I tackled 10 before I had to hit Pause. I found my Nancy Drew books and a tattered paperback copy of The End of the Affair, one of my favorite books, and a signed first edition of Uhuru, one of my mother’s favorites.
Then I found my mother’s secret life, the Betty who existed before Betty my mother emerged. This Betty dined at Maxim’s and shopped couture. She got cross with her co-worker and then made up because they were dear friends. She remembered birthdays. She watched sunsets. She had not a single thought of one day being my mother, of driving carpool and writing grocery lists and scheduling dentist appointments. 1963 was hers.
In all the boxes of books, Daily Reminder 1963 was the only date book I found, the only year she salvaged. One tattered red book.
I imagine my children, years from now (many, I hope), sifting through history and stumbling on my past. Which book will I keep so they will see the time when the days minded me, long before their mother was tasked with minding the day?
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