Susie began her first day of fourth grade at John Burroughs Elementary School, and she’s loving it already. Stephanie took her to the bus stop, the bus came on time, and off she went. (The reverse was true when it came time to come home. The bus was late in arriving, and Steph called me at work on her cell phone to let me know, and she was worried. About 10 minutes later, while I was standing out on High Street waiting for my bus, she called again to let me know that Susie had arrived safe and sound. I could tell–I could hear her chattering in the background.
They really loaded her up with homework this first day. She had to do a page of multiplication problems, a page of division problems, and a penmanship exercise. We expedited the arithmetic by showing her the multiplication table (12 x 12) inside the back cover of my paper-and-ink diary, which is in a composition book. I’m typing this entry at the Franklinton library branch, and the first thing I did was Xerox the table for Susie to put in her school notebook.
Steph shooed both of us out she could teach two piano and voice lessons. I don’t mind, because it gives me a legitimate reason to be at the library. Upon our return, we’re supposed to take the exterior steps up to the second floor and enter through my office. (My office is in the back of the half-double where we live. I have my computer (it’s not hooked to the Internet) and about a dozen “borrowed” milk crates that are now bookcases. There’s no logic to the arrangement of the books, except that I keep the works of Jack Kerouac and Robert Lowry (a Cincinnati writer I was friendly with during his last years; his name will pop up quite often in this blog) arranged in chronological order. There is also a crate full of my diaries, which I try to keep in chronological order.
Speaking of my diaries, I was remembering a passage from Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina. One of the major characters, Levin, is just about to marry Kitty, and here is what he does beforehand:
The confession he had promised was the one painful incident of this time. He consulted the old prince, and with his sanction gave Kitty his diary, in which there was written the confession that tortured him. He had written this diary at the time with a view to his future wife. Two things caused him anguish: his lack of purity and his lack of faith. His confession of unbelief passed unnoticed. She was religious, had never doubted the truths of religion, but his external unbelief did not affect her in the least. Through love she knew all his soul, and in his soul she saw what she wanted, and that such a state of soul should be called unbelieving was to her a matter of no account. The other confession set her weeping bitterly.
Levin, not without an inner struggle, handed her his diary. He knew that between him and her there could not be, and should not be, secrets, and so he had decided that so it must be. But he had not realized what an effect it would have on her, he had not put himself in her place. It was only when the same evening he came to their house before the theater, went into her room and saw her tear-stained, pitiful, sweet face, miserable with suffering he had caused and nothing could undo, he felt the abyss that separated his shameful past from her dovelike purity, and was appalled at what he had done.
“Take them, take these dreadful books!” she said, pushing away the notebooks lying before her on the table. “Why did you give them to me? No, it was better anyway,” she added, touched by his despairing face. “But it’s awful, awful!”
His head sank, and he was silent. He could say nothing.
“You can’t forgive me,” he whispered.
“Yes, I forgive you; but it’s terrible!”
I think it would have been a deal-breaker with Steph and me if she had read my journals beforehand. It would alternate between boring her and repelling her, especially the entries I wrote after or about heavy drinking bouts when I lived in Cincinnati or was making road trips to Columbus to see a friend. (She has snooped in my more recent diaries in the past, and came away bored. I guess I should be insulted, but I’m more amused than anything else. She had to wade through rehashes of union meetings.)
Susie has finished her penmanship homework, and I’m looking across the room here at the library, and I see she’s looking at Barbie.com’s Website. She is such a paradox. I’m just as likely to come into her bedroom and see her with a chessboard in front of her, looking at Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess as I am to see her setting a toy table for her dolls. When I was going on nine, I wanted to come across as adult as possible, and being a kid was something I hated.