Reading Her Diary: Seeing Through My Grandma’s Eyes

I’ve been lent a series of journals from my grandparents. My parents lived on the same farmyard as my grandparents, and they were a huge part of my childhood.

I begin with the earliest volume, begun in February 1982, when I was nearly 4 years old.

As soon as I open her diary, the wheels of time turn back, back, back. Suddenly I’m looking at life on the farm through the eyes of my grandmother.

The journal opens with talk of sewing bridesmaid dresses. I remember stopping in at the house and it being a flurry of activity, as my beautiful young aunts — my dad’s younger sisters — were being fitted in the dresses, standing on chairs, grandma taking measurements, yards of fine fabric everywhere.

On February 9th she mentions “trouble with Misty”. I remember Misty. She was a cow with a big personality.

She mentions baking Lazy Daisy Cake. I haven’t thought about that cake for years. Now I want to bake one, too.

Lee’s Chinese Food Restaurant in Steinbach is mentioned frequently, a destination for all special occasions in that era.

She writes about my dad and one of his sisters going to Blumenort to a “classification clinic evening” — likely in relation to showing heifers at cattle shows.

She writes about having supper at D8 Schtove in Winnipeg: “very good”.

On April 30th, 1982, grandma helped butcher a hog at great-grandma’s place.

She mentions mowing lawn after supper. I remember hearing the lawnmower on the other side of the yard, the aroma of juicy fresh cut grass in the golden hour with the bugs rising up as specks out of the grass catching the light.

When she writes “helped with straw bales”, I can still smell that sweet dusty sun-warmed straw and see the scratches it’d make on my pale arms.

July 18, 1982: “Prepared family history for mailing.” WHAT????? Where is this history? Where did she mail it? Was it for the Koop Book?

Then suddenly, a surprise: I read about Grandma and Grandpa taking Great-Grandma Heinrichs on a trip to Mountain Lake, Minnesota, where she’d been born. It’s startling to me to see a written connection to Mountain Lake, from a source outside of Grandma Online. This is a place I’d like to explore myself, someday.

I’ve only just begun reading these diaries. Most posts are a list of the work she had managed to do that day, but even the most seemingly boring entries give hints at the past, family history, and a way of life that we don’t know anymore… but I’d like to remember.

She saw my brother and I through her kitchen window, and came out onto the doorstep to take this picture.