Conversations with my mother, as of late, tend to wander to years past. Often, those talks about years of past involve Clarice. Clarice is my grandmother – my mother’s mother – will be turning ninety this year, and as it sometimes happens as one ages, memory is not what it used to be.
Clarice is a very small woman and has gotten smaller as she has progressed through her 80s. Even though she is a small woman, she holds a very large place in the memories of my childhood.
While visiting my parents several weeks ago, I asked my mother if she knew of the location of some small journals Clarice had written when I six or seven.
These were not personal journals instead, these were journals that, within a small square or two of paper, chronicled the hunting and fishing outings that I had gone on with both Clarice and my grandfather. My mother vaguely remembered these journals, but, she would ask Clarice if she knew of where one of them might located.
Last weekend, I was in Hibbing. Again, the conversation with my mother drifted to remember when; the topic of journals came up. My mother had asked Clarice about the journals, and she remembered them, but not very well.
With a bit of searching, my mother and I found one of the notebooks. The first entry in this particular notebook was from June 11, 1989. I would have been eight years old. Reading through this first entry, I remember parts of it. The tent caterpillars (colloquially, we referred to them as army worms), and the cat fish. The cat fish was one of the many creatures that happened to be eventually housed [ever briefly] in a small, grey enamel wash tub; I think the tub is still at my parent’s house under the basement laundry sink. The catfish and the turtles that happened to find their way through the grey tub were all released into a local lake on the outskirts of Hibbing.
But, the things that amaze me about the journal entries are more transient; locations and the time it takes to reach these locations in comparison to what I know now as a thirty-something year old person. The locations my grandmother penned in the journals fill in a bit of the location-less-ness of those memories I forged as an eight year old.
The notes on where we went on this particular afternoon excursion; places like Zim, the St. Louis River, and Lavell Road; I know now, and have known since I began driving. It takes roughly 25 minutes to drive to Zim. But, to an eight year old, “Zim,” “St. Louis River,” “Lavell,” these were just words. They lacked the context of place and distance.
My thinking was that I was traveling to someplace that took some time to get there. This may be where my fascination for and joy of getting there came from; just riding with my grandparents without much of a hurry. It was an adventure, albeit, an afternoon adventure that took us on an at most sixty mile round trip adventure. But, in my head, these adventures were to far off lands where we would see creatures that did not reside in my immediate backyard; like deer, ruffed grouse (partridge), woodchucks, catfish and sometimes we saw snapping turtles, ducks and geese.
At the end of the day, I would be tired. I do not even recall how I ended up back home; whether I was dropped off by my grandfather or if my mother drove the few blocks to pick me up. I also do not recall the total number of these outings. This particular journal that I found contains about six outings over threes year (June 1989 thru September 1992); but I like to think these were a regular occurrence happening throughout my childhood.