As my sisters and I were going through our parents things a couple of weeks ago, we came across our mom, Collene Byer Spencer’s diary. It was given to her by her sister Virginia and her husband in 1947, when Mom was just eleven years old. As we drew names for the different items we found, I received the diary. My sister, Allyn Hadlock had read a few passages from it, and thought it felt wrong somehow, but since Mom is no longer with us, I think it’s ok to read it. So tonight, I have been doing just that. The diary is a five year diary, and it was written in sporadically from 1947 to 1951. Funny thing about diaries…your well meaning plan to writing in them faithfully every day, always seems to dwindle into once in a great while pretty quickly. Having had a diary myself…wow, I wonder where that got to, and if we will come across it somewhere in all of Mom’s things. What things did I write in there that might be embarrassing? The rambling of a silly little girl…all but meaningless today. Well, all I can say is that I hope we don’t come across it.
That said, I do remember my own diary, and much like my mother’s it seems that at the age when a diary becomes so interesting, and all the rage, life always seems to take on a bit of the boring. I suppose that is because nobody’s life can be all bells and whistles every day. At some point, you always find yourself with very little to say about the day’s events. Life’s days aren’t often filled with daily exciting things that are worthy of filling the pages of a diary…at least not when you are eleven. I really wish I had maybe been a little more persistent about writing in my diary or a journal in later years though, because I now see the value of such writings.
I did learn some things about my mother, and even about my dad. Mom met dad when she was just ten years old. She told me that the first time she saw him she thought that he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. Dad was twelve years older than Mom, so when she met him, he would have been 22 years old, and at ten, Mom was just about getting to the age where boys were suddenly interesting, and an older man who was as handsome as my Dad was…well, it must have felt like meeting a movie star. Dad liked Mom right away, but probably not is a romantic way. He was a friend of the family, and so came to visit often. During the next few years it appeared to me that Mom had a bit of a crush on Dad, but maybe tried not to let everyone know that, because of the inevitable teasing that would go along with it. By 1949, Dad’s opinion started to mean more to Mom, and when she cut her hair to look more grown up and he didn’t like it…because Dad has always loved long hair, she was upset, and said, “I got my hair cut, and I like it. Al was mad at me, but he doesn’t have a lease on me, so how I wear my hair is none of his biz!” For his part, Dad told her he was going to grow a beard, and he did. She pretended not to notice. In her early years and even while Dad was coming around a lot, Mom was a bit of a boy crazy girl. I always wondered where I got that from, and now I know. I had a boyfriend from the moment I started school, and it appears that Mom did too, quite a lot.
By the time Mom was fifteen years old in 1951, Dad was already sure that she was the girl he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Their romance reminded me a little bit of Laura Ingalls in the Little House on the Prairie books. Almanzo knew he wanted to marry Laura, and she did too, but her dad said they had to wait to marry until she was eighteen. In Mom’s case, it wasn’t her dad who thought they should wait until she was eighteen, but her. At fifteen years of age, she had to get to know herself first. In the end, they would only wait until she was seventeen, but it did not matter. Theirs was a match made in Heaven, and a love to last a lifetime. And the ramblings of a girl writing in her diary trying to figure out just how life and love worked while written sporadically, were clear to this reader anyway.
Have you ever noticed that during the teen years, none of those kids want to smile…in fact, their pictures look like they are mad at the world. The only real exceptions to that rule is selfies and pictures with friends, that their parents don’t always have access to. Looking back on some of the pictures of me as a teenager, I think, “What was wrong with me? I really must have had a very bad attitude!!” I know several other people who would admit to having a bad attitude as a teenager, and I would have to say that I was one of them, although maybe I wasn’t as bad as some people. Nevertheless, I know that there were a lot of people who had a much better attitude than I did, and looking back now, I wish I had been more like those people. A bad attitude really is a big waste of time, energy, and most of all, happiness.
Really, I don’t think my attitude was so horrible. I knew kids in high school who you just steered clear of, because their attitude was the worst, and you certainly didn’t want to say or do something to make them mad at you. You never knew what might happen, and I was not interested in getting beaten up. Sometimes in junior high and high school, things can be like a gang war, when you have the kids with a bad attitude, and someone who isn’t like that, looks at the kids with a bad attitude just slightly wrong, it turns into a big fight.
Thankfully most kids keep their bad attitude more to themselves or to family issues at home, but sometimes it does spill over to the school environment. Today, we would call those kids bullies…and rightly so. When a person cannot control their temper and they lash out at others, they have to be stopped. But these are not the majority of people, they are the minority.
For most of us, the bad attitude that we have periodically or just during a phase of our lives, it kept more to a small arena of people, who suffer in silence…or maybe not so silently…until the person with the bad attitude gets tired of wearing a frown all the time, and starts to live again. Thankfully, the teen years are only ten years out of life, then they are over, and life is better again.
Little kids don’t care if their attitude needs adjusting. All they know is that you made them mad, someone made them mad, or something made them mad. No matter the cause, they will simply tell you, “I’m just mad!” and you get to deal with it. It is usually a very expressive face that is given to this little attitude of their too, but some kids seem to do that look better than others. Even years later, you can look at the picture and know that the person who took that picture is really on that kids bad list right then.
What really fascinates me about these pictures, is not that this little kid is mad, or that they need an attitude adjustment, it is the expressiveness of their anger. Their face and body language so totally tell the story behind their feelings, and often the reason for taking the picture at all. I don’t know who the little boy in the first picture is, except that he is in an old album belonging to my husband’s family, but what I do know is that he looks just like a little gunfighter, who is mad enough at the photographer, to call them out for a gunfight at the OK Corral.
It also strikes me as funny that sometimes the way a kid shows anger can mimic someone from their ancestor pool, whether it is far back or not. My daughter Amy always had a very funny way of showing her anger. It involved not only her face, which was very expressive, but her arms which she crossed in front of her and then pulled to one side. I always thought that was pretty unique to her, until my cousin sent me a picture of our family when my sister, Alena was about 3 or 4, and there was a very similar way of expressing anger just staring at me from the past.
Alena had always had a very expressive way of showing her anger, and my other sisters and I knew not to mess with her much until she was fully awake, which usually involved several cups of coffee, in her early teens. Still, I never remembered seeing that same little display of anger that I thought was so unique to my daughter, Amy. It just goes to show that we all have traits that can be passed down, and it doesn’t always go from parent to child. It often comes from aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents.
No matter where it comes from, displays of anger in little kids can be very funny. Their serious little faces, telling you that you are such a meanie and that you should get a spanking, or better yet be called out to a gunfight, serve only to reduce their parents to giggles. What is even more amazing is that the parents can manage to hold themselves together long enough to snap the picture…which probably makes the kid even more mad.