I found a diary from when I was six.
nothing very exciting is what we did
today I have a school day darnet. I have to get up at 7:00! It is tiring to have to do it almost every day I hate getting up so early its no fun but, have to.
well first today I brushed my teeth, and did that stuff. at school today I went to my seat Ryan makes me nervous every time he comes to sits next to me. nothing very exciting was what we did. we played at lunch recess to spin I’m sorry Diary let me go here were home now I want to sleep.
Liliana goodbye Liliana
Today we watched Discovery the spaceship land, it came down gracefully and successfully. We also played a game called Break the Bench, I had to jump as hard as I could on it so it might break, and we could get new ones, this was in Didion because we didn’t like the benches and the principal said that if a few more benches broke (three were already broken) we would get new ones.
[addendum, smashed in at the bottom of the page:] and I got sent to my room.
The name erin
(sticker: Patty O’Green)
Today I went to the park in school. We played about five games of Bingo. Tomorrow it will be Game Day and I might win lots of prizes. We did do some work at school. But we did take a contest. And I wished I won. But somebody else did.
[In purple marker and big letters, apparently added later:]
The name Erin. And I never won any of those games.
treats of good bye
Today it was game Day! And we did more games than work. We got treats of good Bye. And I won FOUR prizes And I am very happy.
[In purple marker:] I had a good time.
[In pencil:] I got Three erasers and one marker the kind you put in books with a treble clef decoration.
white as fudge
Today I went to school and I like a boy named Rian Eliasberg and He likes me His moms name is Lisa E. and today we made gohsts That spin I won the contest of spinning. I named my gohst Fudgy because he’s white as Fudge and I know three Rians Rian Elias Berg Rian Wunch and Rian Olairy or O’leary I don’t know how to spell it after that we did a little math then it was time to go. And then I wrote recipies and now writing in you. And I watched The cosby show and then I practiced the piano then I went to bed and went to sleep.
(sticker: gold star)
Today I am very excited we are having a Halloween party even though it’s Friday tomorrow it’s Saturday Halloween! I am so happy. today I went to school I sit next to Rian Elias berg he loves me too Today he saved me from his friend Jeff JEFF Jeff wrote on a piece of paper GIRLS I HATE
Rian also said to Jeff: if you put Lili’s name on there I’m going to kill you and he said in secret to him Jeff that he wanted to Marry me when I heard Jeff tell me that I was shy after school Rian called me and kissed me on the phone and now it is time to say goodbye
(extra sticker: blue irises)
press a leaf
Today is Tuesday. I went to school and had a lot of trouble getting up,
[In blue marker:] first, Beatriz came, woke me up. But I fell asleep.
Then I went to school I sit next to Ryan Elias-Berg.
Today I went to recess, nothing very interesting we got reminders to press a leaf. Ryan Elias-berg loves me and some I like him in a matter in fact he’s nice but his friend is just horrible. now I got home from school.
and then to sleep
(sticker: pastel bluebird carrying a red book in its talons)
When I was five, Tía Quela and I had drawing dates. That’s what they were: dates. It only occurred to me now—twenty-six years later, sitting in a room full of art books she would have loved—that a less enchanting woman might have called those afternoons with a five-year old “babysitting”. She did not. They were dates. She treated the occasion as a solemn encounter between fellow artists, one of whom happened to be seventy, whereas the other was five. That was her gift: Tía Quela always played with you, never at you.
Adults say all kinds of things to children, and most of them are empty calories. They’re words the adult barely hears herself, even as she murmurs them; sweet but incoherent sounds made in the direction of small persons but without much reference to them specifically. Children bear the bulk of our generic love.
Tía Quela was not one of those adults. When we sat down to draw, or to tea, she paid me the compliment of treating me as an equal. An idiosyncratic equal, but an equal nonetheless.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t coddled far beyond my deserts; I was, for the simple reason that I wasn’t her equal. She was a gifted artist, but she framed my five-year old efforts in color-coordinated frames, then hung them in the hallway. When we sat down to tea, I ate far more than my share of lemon drops, biscotti, toast, and jam. And when she taught me how to make queque, she equipped me with a small footstool of my very own so that we could be exactly the same size.
It’s hard to explain how much it matters, when you’re young and so terribly inadequate, to feel that an older person enjoys your ideas and your company. And she did. The loveliest thing about her interest was the fact that it was unfeigned. Only now that my friends have children and it seems to be my turn to confront them as fellow humans have I begun to realize what a special trick this was.
It helped, of course, that Tía Quela was deeply, essentially interested in people. And not just people in general: she was interested in you. Copuchas—gossip—is the currency of love in our family. Like all currencies, its circulation demands that most of it come secondhand. But the jackpot is getting the stuff straight from the source, and at this, she was a master. At first glance incredibly conventional, she was in fact a jovial contrarian. This, in a culture where conventionality can be tyrannical, is liberating, and inspires the desperate within it to make confidences.
She liked a discussion, and she did the best thing you can do with a know-it-all teenager like me or with anyone: she argued. She listened carefully to what I said. We battled over first principles. Often, she came to our meetings armed with a train of thought she’d been developing, to see what I would say. On how women should always marry someone more intelligent than themselves. On how financial stability trumps love.
There is no one I enjoyed disagreeing with more.
I say this, incidentally, as a woman who has lived her life pathologically avoiding disagreement. It’s devastating to me when I’m unable to see eye to eye with someone I love. A punch to the gut. A blocked artery. How, I panic, will we bridge this distance that suddenly appeared between us? How, despite our different conclusions based on the same set of facts, can we be friends? Which shared values can we use to rebuild? What route will bypass the blockage and restore a harmonious circulation?
Tía Quela, like her sister (my grandmother), had a rare talent: in her hands, arguments brought you closer. You did not agree, nor would you ever. That was certain. But no philosophy, no matter how deeply felt, could undo what a thousand teas had done. The relationship existed in a universe apart from logic, politics, and world governments, and so remained safe. That tacit understanding left us at liberty to parley—and cover not just politics, world governments, and logic, but the gulps and tangles of family history too.
There are some things Tía Quela wasn’t. She was not inoffensive. One of the better things to come out of Downton Abbey is the character of the Dowager, to whom I have pointed, with relief, when trying to describe my aunt. Though a lady, she was an understated comedian who was never, ever so boring as to be merely polite.
Hospice came to her house when she began to seriously decline, and she was outraged. I went in to see her shortly after they’d left. “Has homicide left yet?” she asked, deadpan, before informing me that she had a pistol on one side of the bed and a rifle on the other in case they came back. Some days later, when a male nurse knelt down next to her bed to write something in her chart, she said quietly, in English: “I am the Queen.”
She is 94 and unimpressed, overall, with the young priest who comes to see her. “A little too good-looking for the clergy,” she says.
She gets worse. She dreams one night of a black hole and the terror wakes her. She sits bolt upright in bed, aggravating her broken rib. Her daughter and niece find her sitting off the edge of the bed, bent over, her head down by her knees. The pain is excruciating, and this is the only position she can bear. The cousins hold her there, on the edge of the bed, for forty-five minutes. The pain subsides.
The next day she says she is in a big white circular building that is very clean. Later, she sees before her an enormous wall full of holes. Maybe it’s the morphine; maybe the boundary between this existence and another is becoming more porous. She complains, annoyed, of a small brown chicken in her bed. Her hands, which for days have been anxiously gripping the corners of the pillowcase so hard that her fingertips have turned white, begin to release.
Her hand twitches when you hold it. It’s warm, relaxed, thrumming with life more than an ordinary hand would be. You can feel things you wouldn’t feel in an ordinary hand, a healthy hand, because this one is so very thin. Holding this hand with its mottled green veins, blood trickling through the vessels, quickly, choppy, like a brook. It feels lively. It twitches.
I loved watching these hands make strawberry jam. I loved how they carefully dissected toast so it would have no crust. I loved how she whistled to herself when she was concentrating. I loved her famous teas, her empanadas, and her house. But what I loved most—what meant the most to me growing up, and always will—was her company. What a gift that was. All those years standing between us might have thickened to a haze, but she waved them aside like cobwebs; and then, just like that, we could see each other clearly, sit down at the kitchen table as old friends, and talk.