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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A busy week in mid-November--1939 and now.

November still offers beauty in my yard.
When I sat down to write this blog post I saw two books on my desk: my father's 1939 diary and my beloved, dog-eared dictionary. How ironic that, instead of getting to work on my writing, I would waste the time I have too little of by thumbing through the dictionary to look up the word "busy." It isn't as though I don't already know what it means. 

Maybe I needed to focus on the word I would use as my excuse for not producing a post for eight days. The dictionary provided  these definitions relating to my busy week: "engaged in action," "full of activity," and "full of distracting details." That sounded right, but it would take opening the diary to put everything into perspective. 

I'm not complaining. My life here in Tacoma overflows with people and activities that interest and excite me. During the past eight days I attended a writers' event in Seattle as well as the Arts Symposium sponsored by the Tacoma Arts Commission, and did two interesting interviews for articles. I even had the experience of being in the Blue Mouse Theater when the power went out during Monday night's big wind storm

I enjoy my life, my husband, socializing when I can, my dozens of projects, and of course, writing. But sometimes I still feel overwhelmed with all the things that keep me so busy that I've tried unsuccessfully for months to meet a special lifelong friend for lunch. It's November and another year is almost gone. I need to think more about what really matters, like seeing my friend.

By reading Dad's words, I realize the difference between a life where busy means hectic and one where busy meant the kind of hard work required just to live, but balanced with many simple joys. In my parents' generation, people did a lot of hard physical work, but I think they maintained more balance in their lives. Here are some excerpts from Dad's diary during this week in November 1939, when he drove a freight truck from Vashon Island to both Seattle and Tacoma, sometimes both during the same day, to support his wife and two young sons.

Dad circa 1939
Sun. Clear and sunny most of the day. I worked all day repairing and painting the truck body. Rosalie did her washing this afternoon.(They didn't have an automatic washer back then, and drying took place on the clothesline, IF the weather cooperated. It was a chore that could take up most of a day, worthy of mention in a diary.)

Mon. Last night at 11:45PM we had quite a hard earthquake. Some damage was done in most Western Washington towns. The European war threatens to break out in earnest at any time now.

Tue. A very bad day. I clipped a curb in town (meaning in Tacoma, during his freight truck route) and cut a big gash in one of my rear tires. Forgot my lunch pail. Got a dent in my front fenders hauling wood. What a day. What a day.

Wed. A beautiful, bright Fall day. Max and I loaded an ice cream cabinet at Robbins store this P.M. 790 lbs. Danny is right up to par again.(His two-year-old son had been sick.) Hauled four heifers on one load for Ed Lande today. (Lande owned a dairy on the island.)

Thurs. Had quite a row over the price of hauling the cabinet. We practiced the second degree at lodge this evening. Played cards till after eleven o'clock. Rainy tonight.

Mom and son "Danny"
Fri. An Acme transfer truck dented my right fender in the alley back of Fisher Co. this A.M. I don't know how I'll come out on it.

Sat.Brought Dad's big truck over so I can use it tomorrow for a moving job. We went for a ride after supper this evening. Dad and Mom went to the show. Beautiful night.

My parents' diaries from those early years of their marriage are full of descriptions of exhausting physical labor and tedious household chores. But while they had very little money and no modern conveniences, they enjoyed life in ways that cost them nothing and gave them everything that really mattered. They visited friends and family constantly, shared suppers, played cards, went on picnics, attended lodge meetings, parties, and dances. People babysat each others' children so the parents could go to "the show" at the island's theater. And they helped each other with everything from hemming new curtains to building barns. Along with the hard work, the diaries describe a time during which people never seemed too busy for each other.

Dad lived to the age of 96. That's a lot of years. But once, near the end of his life, he told me those early years, even though they included the Depression, were the best of all. I hope I will always remember, no matter how busy my day or my week, to notice and be grateful for every "Beautiful night." Be busy, but remember to be happy too.

 Copyright 2010 Candace J. Brown


Anonymous said...

Remembering and celebrating your parents is a good way to be "busy"! But making time for lunch with that lifelong friend might be more important than anything else you have in front of you. Don't mean to lecture, but people do disappear when we're not prepared for it -- and lunch with a friend reminds us of many solaces: the pleasure of sharing a meal, the delights of memory and conversation. So insist on a date, pick a place, and go for it. Your readers insist!

Anonymous said...

This is such a winderful blog..I was born in 1939, and as far back as I can remember, life was hard. The love that my blessed Mother gave us made up for all the bad times. How wonderful that you have your father's memories, written by him. I think I hae to agree with Jazzlives here..Memories that you and your friend made in your earlier years, making more new ones, is so important....Life passes us by so quickly, and sometimes it's too late to make "new memories." So much for that....I loved reading yours and your fathers writings.