As so often happens, I was looking for something and found, instead, something else. In this case a spiral-bound notebook from ten or twelve years ago. I am a notebook hound. They’re everywhere – piled up on shelves, crammed between stacks of books, on the floor beside my bed. Technology will never completely replace my love of a notebook and the perfect pen.
This particular notebook was at the bottom of a stack of books I read years ago which have languished, untouched, on a shelf in my studio. I wish I could say I had at least dusted the pile occasionally, but that would be a lie. Finding a notebook you haven’t seen in a decade is like finding an old wallet and discovering a five-dollar bill inside. It’s not something that’s going to change your life, but it is kind of fun. I found poetry in this notebook. In particular, this one:
There is no comfort in the country
when a farm fails.
My father wanted to move us to Florida.
My mother cried.
“The kids won’t need shoes there,” my father said.
So we packed the car
with clothes, a hamper of food, and ourselves.
Roads unraveled before us, ribbons of dirt and tar,
rolling past fields whose owners we didn’t know,
every mile pulling us farther away from the hope
we gave up too soon.
My father hummed while he drove.
My mother set her face in stone and would not be moved.
I hadn’t finished the poem, but I remembered right away why I wrote it. During the last years of her life, my grandmother lived in a nursing home. Her short-term memory was shot, but she could remember everything from her childhood. Asking her questions about those years was a great way to have a conversation with her. I’d sign her out for the day and we’d traverse the area where she grew up. On one of those outings I learned how her father had tried, and failed at farming, and then decided to move his family from upstate New York to Florida, where he thought life would be easier. It wasn’t. They ended up back where they started.
I guess the poem was my attempt to imagine what it must have felt like all those years ago for my grandmother. I’d forgotten that I wrote it. And I’d forgotten my grandmother’s story until now.
Which means, that sometimes, finding a forgotten notebook is way better than finding a wallet with money in it.