Fountain Pen and Calendar
Photo © James Steidl, iStockphoto® #6137758

One of my favorite baby gifts was an undated one-year calendar with stickers for baby milestones: first bath, first tooth, first word. When my second baby arrived, I realized that one year had been way too short. In the succeeding years, I had cherished those cute quotes of the day–every day–but could I remember them? Could I find those buried in my general journals? Did I remember to write them down in the first place?

That’s why child #2 got more photos and more records. I kept posting a calendar over the changing table where I was guaranteed to remember. I kept that up for three years. After that age, I switched to interviewing the said child and taking dictation. It was part of our bedtime routine to ask, “BTAT?” Best Thing About Today.

You don’t need a baby to try my “square-inch journaling.” Talk about learning to be concise. It’s one way to focus on what’s most important. If you want more space, try a photo-illustrated weekly agenda.

You don’t have to write volumes to preserve significant memories for yourself and your loved ones. Who knows what a treasure a simple calendar can become?

There was a 19th century midwife in Maine who wrote only a few lines a day on pages she carried in her pocket. She crossed the river to deliver a baby. She received produce as payment. She sewed. She bartered. Historians knew about Martha Ballard’s diary but overlooked it: too scanty, too domestic, too feminine.

Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich saw its value. In those deceptively brief remarks, Martha described such significant cultural events as participating in an autopsy, testifying in a rape case, and delivering her own grandchild– recording her own son as the unwed father. Laurel researched the background and corroborating details, taking clues from this simple diary to create a rich historical ethnography in A Midwife’s Tale. She changed the way we look at journals, especially at women’s records. The book won a Pulitzer and Dr. Ulrich won a teaching post at Harvard.

You can also write something beautiful and significant, one inch at a time.

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Photo © James Steidl, iStockphoto® #6137758