Keepin' Diaries

Mandi Hayes-Spencer

I think keeping a journal is important. With today’s busy lifestyles, it’s kind of a dying art form. I have been keeping them since I was a kid and have several boxes full of various colors and styles-red ones, blue ones, some decorated with my own doodle art and some that are leather and quite fancy.

All of them are full. From the front cover to the back cover, the pages in between hold the story of me. All of the memories that I held dear or deemed worthy of documentation are recorded in them and that alone makes them priceless as far as I am concerned.

There are things about family and friends, first loves and first heartbreaks-milestones and mumbo-jumbo.

My mom bought me my first diary during a trip to The Little Professor. It was pink and had a metal lock on the side that could only be opened by someone who knew the three digit combination.

I don’t think I knew exactly what it was when I first picked it up, but I was taken by the look and privacy of it and, to me, it was more of a novelty thing. I wanted it because it was pretty and because it reminded me of something a secret agent might use.

I would be Double-O Mandy of the Flatwoods Secret Service-Child Division.

Judging by the date in it, I got it sometime around 1988 when I was 7 years old.

My first entry is the weirdest thing I have ever read in my entire life. My 7 year old spelling skills were in need of some serious polishing.

This was my very first diary entry. It was dated April 2, 1988 and, as best I could, I included both the spelling errors and their translations.

Dear Dairy (Yes, I spelled it Dairy as in milk-not dIAry as in journal),
My name is Mandy (Yep. Spelled it with a Y back then) and it is nice to meat (meet) you even though you are just papers sticked (stuck) togather with glew (glue) and cant talk or nuthing. My mom sad (said) you rite (write) down your dreems (dreams) in dairys so I wanted to say I think I dont like chors (chores) and I do like cinaminamon (cinnamon) toste (toast) and I wish I culd (could) never do chors agin becos my mom found a Andy Dandy box I hid under my bed when we cleened my room yesturday and I got in truble becos it stil had some hamberger left in it. OK that is all for now I have to go see if my frend Amanda wonts to play wifell ball! (Wiffle Ball).

Hilariously, I remember the day my mom found that Andy Dandy Meal from Druthers (if that doesn’t date me I don’t know what will) under my bed. She pulled it out assuming it was empty, but got quite a shock when the remains of a month old petrified hamburger fell out of the box into her lap.

Needless to say, I was more careful with my Andy Dandy Meals after that.

However, to this day, she and my brother both still give me a hard time about it. A girl leaves one little hamburger under her bed and never lives it down.

And just for the record, I still love cinnamon toast and hate chores.

This diary was just the beginning of a series of several, maybe over 100, that I would use. My curiosity was peaked when I found the first one, so I kind of dug around in a box full of them and read a few pages at random just to see what I would find.

One of the more interesting entries from my teenage years was the day I turned sixteen and my mom took me for my permit test in my birthday present-a brand new white, 1996 model Geo Prism that was delivered to me a few days before, complete with a giant red bow on the hood.

It read as follows:

Hey Hey! (Apparently I had graduated from Dear Dairy at this point…)

I passed my permit test by missing only one and got to drive my new car home! The question I missed was stupid and I bet a lot of people don’t know that when you drive in fog you are NOT supposed to turn on your bright lights. I mean, where is the logic in that? Fog makes things HARDER to see, right? And light makes things EASIER to see, right? I mean, duh! But, whatever! I passed!

My mom let me drive home. At first I was doing pretty good and then I think mom’s nerves finally got the best of her. I have no idea why going 1MPH over the speed limit gives her the right to keep saying, “We are NOT racing in the Indy Five-Hundred, Mandi Ann! Slow this car down or I will make you pull over!” I wasn’t even nervous until she started saying, “Oh shoot! Oh, Lord! Sweet Jesus let us live through this!” over-and over-and over again. By the time we got home she’d tied knots in her hair and, no joke, looked like a lunatic. I felt like I’d just re-enacted a car chase scene from the movie Die Hard.

I’m really excited about the permit but more excited to get this 30 day period done and over with so I can go out on my own. It will be so awesome to drive myself to school alone. I can listen to the radio as loud as I want and won’t have to listen to my parents begging the good Lord for mercy on their souls every time the front tire gets too close to the yellow line.

Dramatic much?

My new car is freaking awesome and I LOOOVE my parents for being so awesome to get me one. It smells like new car and has a really nice radio and tape player. I’ve been making a lot of mix-tapes to play while I drive. My dad said I wasn’t allowed to play “that horrible noise” too loud when I drive because it would damage my eardrums and I wouldn’t be able to hear anything. I am hoping he’s kidding.

Anyways, I suppose I need to check out for the night and hit the sack. My dad is letting me drive to school tomorrow!

This incident is one that I have retained an almost photographic memory of. The day I drove my mom home from the courthouse is one we laugh about from time to time. Sometimes when she’s driving and we’re in the car together I’ll look at her and say (in a sing-songy impression of her voice), “Good Lord, mother! We’re not racing in the Indy Five-Hundred! Slow down! I’m having a stroke over here! Lord have mercy, let me live! LET ME LIVE!”

She just rolls her eyes.

One thing is for sure-these journals hold a lot of things in them about my dad that I might have forgotten along the way if not for writing it down. It’s like I am able to keep a piece of him here with me even though he is gone and that kind of comfort cannot be bought.

And, heaven help me, if I do end up inheriting that terrible Alzheimer’s gene, I can leave these behind to my family as a reminder of what they mean to me even if I become unable to tell them myself.

My son can read about the day he was born, the day he took his first steps and know without a doubt that he was loved.

They are my version of The Notebook-only this is real life and those books are very real memories.

Until next week, remember: Five minutes a day alone with pen and paper is all it takes to make you immortal.

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