I moved my bedroom to the basement when I was about fifteen. Introverted in the extreme and sensitive to heat and light—kind of like a vampire—it suited me perfectly. I had my own bathroom and, as a birthday present one year, Internet access, and the TV was right next door. If I didn’t have to eat I probably never would have gone upstairs.
Best of all, I had a little settee tucked into an alcove, right next to my bookshelf. I spent hours in that corner, studying, reading, listening to music, and writing in my diaries.
Highly influenced by Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, I started keeping a diary at age ten (though at that time I called it a “notebook”). I kept up the practice on and off over the years and still occasionally write in one today. My mom always said that keeping records of my feelings about everything and everyone in my life would get me into trouble, and sometimes it did, but I kept writing everything down anyway. When I moved away from home for university, I always enjoyed returning to the fifteen or so diaries, still sitting in a bag in my basement closet. Every year I felt a little further away from the person who had written them, and it was always a good reminder that feelings—even really powerful, really painful feelings—rarely last forever.
My parents were two of the 100,000 Calgarians evacuated from their homes last week. They returned to their house on the Elbow River to find almost everything on their ground floor and in their basement destroyed by flood water. My basement bedroom is gone. The settee in the alcove is gone. My Harry Potter and Dirty Dancing posters are gone. Every book in my bookshelf is gone.
And my diaries.
I know it’s a very small loss. Some people lost their entire homes; a few lost their lives. Even within our home, we had to part with our piano, which houses memories far more worth remembering than anything in my diaries.
Still, I can’t help but feel grief when I think about all those silly words turned to mulch. Going home used to mean not only visiting with my parents and old friends, but visiting with me—the me I used to be, anyway. She’s not really gone now, of course. But with no record of her, who can say for sure?