As I ran out the door, last one out of the house and headed for the beach, I grabbed a book from my mom’s stack of library books (yes, these days I steal books from her pile just as often as she does mine!). It had a pretty cover, looked interesting and I was in dire need of something to read, so why not? I thought. And so, The Help by Kathryn Stockett got thrown in my beach bag and spent an afternoon by the Atlantic with me.
Set in Jackson, Mississippi during the racially charged 1960’s, The Help is primarily the story of two colored maids – Aibileen and Minnie – and a young white girl, Skeeter, who is determined to hone her writing skills and tell their story: what’s really like to be a black maid.
The story grabbed my interest and I found myself speed-reading it so I could finish it by the end of the day. The characters were engaging and felt real and while it took me a little while to get used to the switching narratives, it works for this book and each part flows smoothly into the next. It had a predictable ending, but a slight twist did surprise me.
The afterword further intrigued me. The author grew up in Jackson during the sixties; her family, like many others, hired a black woman to come in and clean the house. She never thought much of it as a child, it was just a way of life. As an adult, however, she began to think of it more – and from there came the inspiration for her book.
As I read this afterword it suddenly occurred to me – my mom was a child during the 1960s. Don’t laugh at me, but it made me stop and think: if we have historical novels written about life during the 1960’s, what about twenty years from now…what sort of books will we have about the turn of this century?
Historical novels are interesting, especially when they’re written by someone who actually lived it. I find myself wondering, what did my parents think of important events during their lifetime: the first man on the moon – the fall of the Berlin Wall – the Gulf War? Will my children one day wonder the same about me? Will they wonder what it was like to live through 9/11 and Operation Iraqi Freedom? Will they wonder what it was like for my little brother to serve in the military during a time of war? Will they wonder what it was like to live through the election of the first black American president?
I remember when I first realized as a kid that right here, right now, we’re living in times that will one day be in our history books. Today, I still get the biggest thrill out of it. Today will be yesterday soon. Will I regret not making a point to remember what I thought of history as it’s in the making? It doesn’t matter if it’s events that shatter the world – an earth quake in Haiti or a terrorist attack that shook up this nation – or if it’s just the latest events in my simple-yet-complicated life. It’s history.
And so, I journal. A couple weeks ago, I had occupied myself with pen and paper when I received a text from a friend asking what I was doing. “Catching up on my journaling,” I texted back and turned back to my book. A buzzing noise alerted me to his teasing one-word-response that definitely conveyed to me his opinion on journaling: BORING.
Yeah, journaling isn’t for everyone. But it most definitely is for me. I journal to remember…to remember what has happened, to remember what I believe and hope. I journal to remember today what I believe and hope, and I journal so I can remember one day, what happened now, just by reading my hand-written pages. I journal because it’s all history in the making.