Monday, July 20, 2009

Primary Source

Paul came home from his parent's house, bearing treasures. And by treasures, I mean, "all sorts of random crap from his childhood."

The bounty included a shoebox full of trading cards---featuring Battlestar Galactica, Moonraker (which is, as far as I know, the only James Bond flick that involved space travel), and The Empire Strikes Back. I imagine that somebody collects these things, but it may involve fisticuffs and trickery to get them from Paul.

Additionally, we now possess an old Boy Scout handbook, marbles, and a collection of shells. With the exception of the handbook, these treasures made Owen very happy.

The prize that made me giddy, however, was a small, blue notebook: Paul's diary. Paul wrote in this thing for about a month, during the summer of 1982. He was eight years old, and living in Washington State. Over the month, the entries became shorter, and the handwriting became cramped and increasingly less legible. Eventually, he abandoned the writing life, leaving so many unanswered questions, so many gaps in history.

Here's a typical entry: "On Wednesday, Mom went to the eye doctor. I saw a died [sic] cat on the road. I went to my ball game. We won 25-17 then we went to Daily Deli."

All and all, not a bad life. Errands with mom, dead cats, ball games, and luncheon meats. Certainly not Angela's Ashes.

At times, things were difficult for young Paul. In addition to getting in trouble for running into the street, there were the natural elements to brave. On July 25th, he wrote, "I got wet in the hose. There was a fire."

I must wonder if these two events were related. Was Paul wet due to putting out a fire? Perhaps he was in the all-child-volunteer-fire-department! Or, did he play with the hose, and then set a fire? How handy that would be! I imagine him thinking, "Oh, crap! I started a fire! But, Oh! Perhaps this green tube could be of service...")

The possibilities are endless.

The diary did give me a taste of his actual life. Since Paul was a Navy kid, there's lots of talk of going to the ship to see movies (including such greats as Quest for Fire, and The Great Muppet Caper.) He noted several times that his dad had to report to work at midnight. There were many recorded trips to the commissary.

In an entry that was just another day, to Paul, he writes, "On Monday, we went to Mt. Saint Helens and picked up ash. Then, we climbed up a big hill. Then, we had a picnic by Mt. Saint Helens." Paul was playing and picnicking by the volcano that had famously erupted just two years prior.

The diary ended with a sputter. On August 9th, he wrote, "On Monday, we didn't do anything." Then, on August 10th, his last entry read, "Same as Monday."

And thus, the written history of Paul's childhood ends forever. Although it is fairly normal, and dare I say, mundane, it is a treasure.

As I read it, I could see the little boy, who was so much like his sons, taking the time to record his memories for posterity. I want to mother this young boy, to whisper in his ear that a beautiful life awaits him.

While his days are occasionally boring now, adventures will come: learning Korean, running marathons, travel, love, family. I want to tell that young boy, pencil poised above his page, "You will mean everything to your family some day. You, Paul Campbell, will be a hero."

1 comment:

Coby Goesling said...

What a treasure! I love hearing about the little boy my husband was - even if it means our garage is filled with his childhood crap.