Do you journal the tough memories?

by Janice Daquila-Pardo on August 2, 2011

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If you have visited my site even just a few times, you’ve likely noticed my penchant for scrapping photos from my own childhood. I love to scan in older faded and scratched photos so I can rehab them in Photoshop and scrap them. In addition to being enjoyable for me, it also feels like it’s important to do. I don’t think I need to convince you, gentle reader, about why I say that. It’s one of the main reasons we engage in this hobby…to remember and record.

But for me there’s also a cool byproduct of doing this kind of page: I get to have charming little conversations with my mother and brother about these photos and their memories. Sometimes while I’m working with a set of photos, if I don’t know enough about it I call my mom or bro to ask them for more details. Other times I complete the layout and put it online, after which my family members bring it up to talk about the next time we’re on the phone together. It’s really nice.

Here’s where I get to the reason for the question in my title, “Do you journal the tough memories?” I pulled out a darling photo of Phil and me during the first week of fourth grade in 1976. We had just walked home from school with our arms full of heavy books, and Mom snapped this photo. On the back she wrote, “How studious! September 1976.”

Now I considered, while planning this layout, just journaling the surface details. Something like the description I gave above. But what this photo really reminds me of is a much darker memory. Although I generally loved school, fourth grade was very hard for me; I couldn’t wait for it to end. My difficult times stemmed directly from my homeroom teacher, a nun with a cruel sense of right and wrong.

As I was contemplating how to handle writing about this memory, I grabbed the phone and called Phil for his advice:

  • Do I tell the whole truth?
  • Do I name her?
  • Do I write this differently because I know I’ll be posting it online?

Here’s what we concluded: Tell as much of the truth as you feel comfortable with because people understand that not every memory is rosy. Most won’t be that shocked. And because this teacher was a Catholic nun of a certain age, she was not known in the world by her given name. She was part of a religious community where sisters usually took the name of a saint. Phil and I decided that because I would only be calling her by her religious name, there was no possibility that I could do her reputation (if she is still alive) any true damage.

So I wrote about my real experience on this layout.

Phil observed, “This is really different because you usually just write about happy little memories.” I thought about it then explained that for many of the early photos I have, I was really too young to have a detailed memory about the moment. So I write the facts I know and call it done. But when I look at this photo, rather than remembering much about the day or the moment the shot was taken, I have a very particular feeling associated with the whole school year. So that’s what I felt compelled to write. Phil agreed that’s what I should do.

I wonder, what do you do when you’re faced with this situation? Do you tell the truth of how the photo makes you feel? Or do you just record the happier facts and leave the dark parts in the past?

FourthGrade1976_Daquila-Pardo

In September 1976 Phil and I were starting fourth grade and had just walked home with all our books.

An important note: I loved my other years at grade school. Most of the teachers were really wonderful.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie August 3, 2011 at 9:42 am

I really appreciate this post. When it’s possible, I think acknowledging the tough memories is important and scrapbooking seems like a really wonderful way to do it.

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Janice Daquila-Pardo August 3, 2011 at 10:09 am

Thanks for commenting, Katie. Yes, we all have some tough moments in our past, so I think acting like they aren’t there in our memories in some small way denies a bit of who we have become because of them. For instance, I believe that my very strong sense of fairness (which doesn’t always serve me well, I’ll admit!) was partially formed that year by what I saw and how I felt about it.

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Miriam August 5, 2011 at 3:53 am

Hi Janice, This is such a beautiful post, yes I agree, it is right to record tough memories, life is full of tough times. I think in the future whoever reads this will have a real sense of who you are. Was it in any way cathartic?

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Janice Daquila-Pardo August 5, 2011 at 11:41 am

Miriam, thank you so for your comment; you are very kind. :-) Yes, writing the journaling on the layout and this post about the journaling were a bit cathartic. I still think of that little girl rather often. I remember her face, her name and her anguish so well. I wonder what that school year did to her. I also wonder what motivated our teacher to punish her for her problems. Although I know I can’t do anything about all that happening, I didn’t want that it happened to fade away. It was a big deal (at the very least for Gina and me), and I feel that writing about it “honors” that.

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