Grandma’s diary

My grandmother – the inspiration for Ann Jamieson in Unravelled – kept a diary one year. She was in her sixties at the time, living half the year in Florida with my grandfather and Ella, one of her sisters-in-law. Ella was the sister left behind in England with a maiden aunt when her parents and two or three of her siblings (I’m unsure of the number) emigrated to Canada. I try to imagine what that must have been like – a little girl essentially abandoned by her family, not to see any of them again for years and years.
Scandalously, Ella married her uncle – not a blood uncle but an uncle by marriage. To escape the gossip of a small English town, she and her husband left England and settled in Florida. After her husband died, she made a little money working in a dental office. Eventually, my grandfather purchased a home that Ella lived in year-round while my grandparents came for the winter.
Ella behaved like a spoiled child when she lived with Grandma and Grandpa. She threw tantrums and often accused my grandmother of being mean to her. I think my grandmother would have referred to this situation as one of life’s little crosses she had to bear.
Here’s an excerpt where she explains buying the diary:

I finally managed to buy this book for my Diary. It needn’t be kept a secret, but I would prefer to. I feel the need of a little privacy and it is a scarce article in this house. Les, I know, likes some time to ponder over his affairs. He has no difficulty – just retires to the den and becomes absorbed in his papers. No one disturbs him. I have some conspiring to do before I can arrange my little sessions. Writing letters is, of course, a legitimate exercise, and can be indulged in regularly as long as it can be managed under a running commentary on the news, some scandal, or any other items uppermost in Ella’s mind at that time. It would be difficult to explain why I am writing in a book and of what use to waste time on it and so I shall write in secret, if possible. Probably is a waste of time, and surely is of no use to anyone but me – and so I shall continue.

Just a little insight into my grandmother’s character.

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13 Responses

  1. What a treasure your grandmother’s diary is! To have insights into her thinking. Just what you’ve shared tells me how much she sought some space of her own, a voice of her own. I sense she didn’t feel up to (or equal to?) confronting Ella. She needs the voice and yet she dismisses the value of the writing. Already I want to know so much more!

    1. Hi Carol … I’ll put up some more of her thoughts. Unfortunately, the diary did not last very long but I can see her pen in hand, secluded somewhere in the Florida house that I visited many times. Orange and grapefruit trees outside, a wide lawn where Spanish moss dangled from branches, pink stucco and a large screened porch where they would sit in the evening, my grandfather puffing on his pipe, Ella chattering like a magpie.

      1. Just those little bits give a writer so much to work with. I have a half dozen letters written by my great grandmother in the early 1900s. They are a wealth of personality, everyday life, and facts. Love each word.

  2. I love this, Mary – I’m learning things about the family! I recently went through all the letters she sent to me at camp a million years ago. She did have a knack for writing/

    1. Hi Barb … aren’t you lucky to have letters from Grandma at camp. I have one letter she sent to me not long after Grandpa died but I don’t think I have any others 🙁

  3. So cool for her to have left it and now I don’t have to wonder where you get the facility for writing 🙂 Loved this from her journal: “I am writing in a book and of what use to waste time on it and so I shall write in secret, if possible. Probably is a waste of time, and surely is of no use to anyone but me – and so I shall continue.”
    A waste of time? She couldn’t have known how thrilling it would be for generations to come.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a wonderful excerpt from the diary. I love how your grandmother compares writing letters to writing in a diary. It provides wonderful insights into her personality. Thank goodness, she decided that it was worthwhile to keep a diary.

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