Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Several years ago, my younger sister gave me a five-year diary for Christmas. She thought I'd like to write and compare: what happened when - to keep track of the way the kids grew and time passed. Writing a diary has never been about the passage of time for me, it's always been about a project, a topic, a journey, my experiences, but not the daily grind.

The five-year diary was never touched. I have diaries from travels with the kids, I have travelling-letters from my journeys alone, saved and stored, I have descriptions and short notes in a long list of note-books, which I have always used while doing academic work, but I never picked up that leather-bound, gold-edged beautifully printed diary, even to write my name in it.

Today I gave it to my mother. She's 76 years old, has a heart-condition, and keeps telling us that she will die soon. She has also lived through a war, the development of this country from an industry-low farm-country (there are some wonderful pictures of my sisters and the horse they used to run the farm they were managing, I always envied my sisters for having lived on a farm with a horse) to a technologically advanced society. Her father and grandfather were stone-masons, they participated in building the rail-road from Bergen to Oslo and were active agitators in the labour-party; which played an important part in building the well-fare society which Norway is today. Her late husband, my father, was sami, and she taught him to read and write after they had met - forcing him to read out loud from the newspapers every day. Now when we struggle with my son's dyslexia, she nods in recognition, and says that's the same problems as his grandfather had. My son doesn't have to switch from his mother-tongue to Norwegian to learn to read, and he grows up surrounded with books and technology to assist him, but the inherited dyslexia is pretty much the same, even down to the same type of errors: mixing up b and p, d and t, k and g.

Suddenly, holding that diary, I realised that the knowledge which was important to me personally, and which is about to be lost to me, is my mother's knowledge of the past. If she managed to write down her thoughts and recollections it would be a document of far more value to me than the huge house she insists she is keeping for us to inherit, or the treasured knick-knacks in her cabinets. Much as I love the bowls and chests my father painted and cut out, or the finely embroidered table-clothes we never dared use as I was a child, the inheritance I will miss and which will be lost forever when she is gone, is her knowledge.

I find myself hoping that she'll use that diary, And I also find myself wondering how I can download the files from this blog, store it on a cd and hide it for my kids to find when cd's are obsolete, antiquated technology...

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