For some reason, despite keeping up with regular entries to the composition book journal, I still wrote in the Hello Kitty diary from time to time. It had three sections of pages: pink, then yellow, then blue. I think the completist in me was determined not to waste paper and make it to the blue pages, though I never even made it out of the pink ones. I ended up mostly sticking with the composition book, but these rare entries show a snapshot of where I was at the time with less filler (despite the repetition of content). A prime example:
I don’t like Charles anymore (he’s a pain in the !?!?!?) but I am madly in love with George. But the good thing is I think he also likes me! I hope he asks me out and that my parents will let me go out with him.
I still love Jonas and a lot!!! But I know it’s impossible for anything to happen with us, but me and George have a chance to get something started.
Me and Marcela (the bitch) are not friends anymore because she walked out on my birthday party which went even better without her.
-Bye- (4 now)
The last time I mentioned George was back in November, 1989, when he started to tell me something that I suspected was a confession of love (or at the very least, strong like). Despite rarely mentioning him in the other journal, I evidently still carried this torch for my opponent to the vice presidential race of our elementary school. What baffles me today is how I interpreted his ambivalence back then as reciprocated interest. Good thing you can cut an eleven-year-old some slack for being clueless in matters of dating (as for later years…well, we have plenty of time before we get to those comedies/tragedies of errors).
And Jonas. Oy, again with the cute third grade hall monitor. I’m awed and embarrassed at how many entries there are in both diaries devoted to Jonas, years after he graduated and long after I randomly saw him at the movies. (I’m also editing a lot of them out of this blog… you’re welcome). At the very least, I was aware of the futility of any relationship. It’s kinda difficult to “get something started” when you never see the person you allegedly love “and a lot.”
I know it seems like I throw around the word “love” a lot in my diaries, and I do, but let’s review a list of some of the other people I “loved” at the time (parents notwithstanding): Debbie Gibson, Corey Haim, Cyndi Lauper, Stacy Q, Blair from The Facts of Life, and Madison the mermaid (as portrayed by Daryl Hannah in Splash). Need I say more?
I am so nervouse, I am starting the 5th grade. My friend Nisa and me are going to school together. Right now I’m as nervous as hell + I don’t know why. I am going to get Mr. Adams and I wanted to get him, but I am still nervous. It’s probably because I want to make a good impression that’s all.
In Fifth grade, we were asked to get a Mead Composition Book and start a journal. Since it was part of our assignments to write in it regularly, the entries are more frequent than the sporadic updates I made in the Hello Kitty diary. And since I realized I’d be detailing many more personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings, I rigged my notebook with a homemade security system using electric tape, plastic cord, and a small padlock. Anybody with a pair of scissors could have broken into thing, but I rested easy in the knowledge that my secrets were secure.
Here is the first entry in the Composition Book:
Yesterday I bought all of my school supplies. I got all of them ready for the next day. Our teacher is really nice and I like him.
There are these two this one boys I kind of like their his names are is Charles + Bruce.
Right now I finished all my work and I’m really bored.
Being an overly nostalgic person (no, really), I enjoyed rereading my journal entries while growing up. I was also tempted to correct spelling mistakes and had to stop myself from editing the past while reviewing it. The Stalin-esque revisionism to this entry was my effort for me to appear less fickle-hearted, since my crush on Charles outlasted the one on Bruce. Luckily, I came to my senses and was able to refrain from doing this to the rest of my journal entries.
I forgot to tell you about this crush I Had for two years: His name is Jonas P. and he just graduated. I will Never see him again but I will never forget Him.
I had many dreams about him but I now none of them will come true. one time I slept over Borya’s house and we talked about personal stuff and I told him about Jonas and he started discouraging me and telling me to forget about him.
I was so sad that night that I cried myself to sleep.
Jonas was my hall monitor in third and fourth grade and two years my senior. He had red hair, blue eyes and freckles, and I exchanged probably no more than five sentences with him during the the time we we attended the same elementary school. Back then, a two year age difference was like a 20 year gap today. The only reason he ever had to say anything to me was if I misbehaved.
Now I was a good kid, but I was also ridiculously smitten. I made a habit of talking during assemblies on purpose, so that Jonas would reprimand me. Scandalous, I know. Sometimes I even talked back to him. Once I really pushed my luck and he made me stand against the wall. I didn’t act up after after that because deep down I feared authority (still do, sometimes).
I didn’t know anything about Jonas besides his name and that he was cute and made my nine/ten-year-old little heart beat fast. I also knew that being in “love” with him was hopeless.
As much as I knew it, I didn’t need Borya to remind me how was hopeless it was and make me cry about it. That jerk.
today I went to McDonald’s. Afterwards I went to the park and played a game with my mother. I wanted to play a game with either my mom or dad but none of them wanted to play and one will might play with me.
I went to McDonald’s for lunch and after that I went to see the Chippmunck Adveuncher and Mommy took me to all those places.
I know the cool thing these days is to shun all processed foods and go organic, macrobiotic, and other things that end in ick– er, I mean ic. And I do eat my share of salads, brown rice, fruit, and things that are grilled or steamed. But about once a year, I get a craving for McDonald’s fries, and I have to succumb to it.
Friday May 2nd 1986
we will go to Beefstake charlies. I had such a good time. We ate such good food. It was so much fun then.
One thing I learned (and learned well) in America is how to eat. And there were few places my parents and I liked to eat more than Beefsteak Charlie’s.
The restaurant was part of a chain and boasted an All You Can Eat salad bar, which included enormous ice-filled bowls of jumbo shrimp.
We gorged ourselves on these shrimp, dipping them into pools of cocktail sauce, creating mountains of peelings on a spare plate. Often we were full before our entrees arrived.
I went from being a picky eater in the former USSR to discovering the delights of American food like hamburgers and fries (my usual order at Beefsteak Charlie’s).
While our former countrymen waited on bread lines, my parents and I waited on buffet lines, sitting down to heaping plates of pasta salad, olives, fresh tomatoes and lettuce and, of course, lots and lots of shrimp.
Sun. June 15 1986
today I am going to a wedding and I am so excited. there is going to be a cake and good things to eat. when I came there I fell in love with a waiter.
In later years, I moved on to bartenders and starving artists.
April 28th 1986
a girl named Fay is coming for the second to the last days of Passover. I am so happy because She is my best frend.
Teusday April 24 1986
Today is my frends Fay birthday. I went to her and today is still passover. I am so excited to go there. I got her a present and she loved it.
Fay was the granddaughter of our downstairs neighbors, an elderly Jewish couple who took us in as family when my parents and I immigrated in 1982. Fay lived in Ohio, so I only saw her once or twice a year, but those visits were easily some of the happiest moments of my childhood.
She had an older sister, Jade, who also came to visit that Passover. Jade was 16 and talked mostly about make-up and music. She wanted to be a model and I found her sophisticated and intimidating. She was obsessed with Depeche Mode and made me listen to one of their songs on her Walkman. The electronic sounds and Dave Gahan’s deep voice was a dark and strange sonic experience for me, one that I found jarring and did not want to repeat.
It would be over a decade until I rediscovered Depeche Mode and grew to love their music, especially their work from the ’80s, which I was too young to appreciate back then.
But I still remember hearing their music for the first time and I still remember Jade teaching me the correct way to apply eyeliner. I wish I could send my teenage self back in time to be friends with her.
March 15, 1986
long time No see. Today I got a story for you! Tomorrow on Sunday I mite get holes in my ears. I am so excited. I do not think it is going to hurt.
Sun. Mar. 16 1986
the day before today I wrote a storey about that I will have holes in my ears. but I did not. I feel so sad. but I’m glad I have you then I can shere my feelings with you.
Can I get a collective awwww? I read this and felt pity for my eight-year-old self, imagining my high hopes and how they must have been crushed come Sunday, when I was left with virgin earlobes.
I was sure this was a childhood disappointment due to flawed parenting and called my mother to verify (and maybe pout about it a little bit all these years later). She told me what really happened.
Apparently, a friend of mine decided to do some DIY body modification and pierced her own ear with a sewing needle. Not being the brightest bulb, she did not know about the importance of sterilization and ended up with an infection. Her puss-filled, swollen earlobe spooked me; it was, to borrow a word I used back then, “grody.” That crimson lobe served as a visual aid of the pain that surely awaited me if and when I pierced my own ears.
Repulsion and fear built up in me until I knew I couldn’t go through with it.
I chickened out and told my parents I no longer wanted my ears pierced. To their credit, they never gave me a hard time about it. So all that remorse in that second entry is not aimed at my mom and dad and any false promises they may have made. It’s regret at my own cowardice, which prevented me from getting something I really wanted.
April 1, 1985
I met such a bad boy. He is so sick bad. he’s fat. and his name is ivan trunuf.
Not the last time I would cross paths with a bad boy. The difference is that as an eight-year-old I had the good sense to recognize one and keep my distance. Ivan was bad, fat, and possibly sick. I knew well enough to stay away.
December 28, 1985
I am so happy. Soon it is new years eve. I will have gests. and I will have two kids named Anna and Ralph. There good friends but I hate it wen they say a carse.
Anna and Ralph were fraternal twins who I loved to play with, despite their salty language. They lived in a complex of apartment buildings that I was amazed by, because there were numerous playgrounds throughout. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized these buildings were part of a housing project. Anna, Ralph, and I loved playing a game called Ghost, which was similar to Marco Polo, except it involved one person wearing a sheet over their head and turning off all the lights. Lamps were knocked over, shins were bruised, fun was had.
My parents stopped socializing with their parents when they discovered Anna and Ralph’s folks were avid drug users. One night, the twin’s parents offered my mom and dad some cocaine while us kids played in the other room. My parents were shocked and said no, and that was the last time I saw the twins. Years later, we heard that Anna’s father got really high one night and threw Anna out the window. I don’t know if that’s true but to this day the family’s wherabouts are a mystery to us.
I did not know how bad sumnwer would be. But it ended fine. I did good stuff. It was so much fun. I was wrong then.
I don’t know the somewhere in question, but it was probably a grown-ups house. If it “ended fine” it probably meant they had kids my age, toys, or a television for me to watch in private. Either way, a valuable lesson in reaping the rewards of low expectations.
In the morning I wach good cartoons. Sometimes I do not have things to do on Saturdays. But today I do have things to do.
These days, I never lament not “having things to do” on Saturdays; I love having stretches of unstructured time. Watching cartoons is never the yardstick by which I measure a busy day either (if only). Back then, if I didn’t wake up somewhat early on Saturdays, I’d be stuck with nothing to watch but the Smurfs. I never understood why they got their own 90-minute show when they were so repetitive and bland. Of the thousands of Smurfs, less than a dozen had names and personalities, and only one of them was pretty (Smurfette). I thought it must be lonely for her not to have any other girl Smurfs to go shopping or talk on the phone with. And that habit of replacing any word with “smurf” (“this ice cream is smurfy!”)? Downright lazy linguistics if you ask me.
I would have rather watched Thundercats for those 90 minutes.
When I was seven years old, I asked my parents for a diary. The one I chose had Hello Kitty on the cover holding three balloons, a basket of flowers at her feet with “DEAR DIARY” written across the top. The diary assured privacy by way of a small padlock and two keys, both of which I promptly lost (I’d use a crochet hook to open the lock).
Here are those first few entries:
I am sick. I don’t go to a school. I watch T.V. and havef fun. But ti’s not fun. Cos I skip school.
I go to the movie and I am still sick. I go to the swings. I do not go to the movie.
I mite go to the movie. But I will go somewhere eals. I still do not go to the movie.
As a little girl, two things I loved most were going to the movies and going to the playground, where I would ride the swings and play on the monkey bars pretending they were my own apartment (you should have seen what I did with my imaginary living room). Two things I hated most were false promises and getting my hopes up. While my youthful disappointment may not have been fully conveyed within the rainbow pages of the Hello Kitty diary, rest assured, it was there, between the lines.