These are my most precious family heirlooms:
They are my grandmother’s diaries from the 1930s, given to me by my aunt at a family reunion sometime in the early 90s. My grandmother kept a diary from 1932 up through around 1939. While she wasn’t scrupulous about writing every day, for a few years she was fairly consistent. There is some great family history in here, including when my grandfather proposed to my grandmother, and a great deal about my father’s early years as an infant and toddler. It seems he was “cross” a lot–fortunately this did not carry through to his adulthood 🙂
While my grandmother was not a writer in the sense of writing stories or novels, she did concisely capture the events of her daily life in brief snippets, which made for a particular writing style.
Reading through these years of entries my writer mind got to thinking: What if magic of some sort was just a normal part of life in those days? In middle America? Maybe I could cook up some kind of fantasy Americana? Maybe as a set of diary entries pertaining to a rather significant magical event in her son’s life? That has since been uncovered by the son of my grandmother’s son?
Abyss & Apex published “Entries From My Grandmother’s Diary Pertaining to my Father’s Early Inflammation” in Issue 78 (April 1, 2021), written by myself and co-authored by my grandmother, Hazel L. Criley. (I think my grandmother would be either tickled or aghast if she knew she would eventually have an entry in the Internet Science Fiction Database.)
The diaries provided a treasure trove of information about my grandmother’s daily life in that late 1930s era, and I found a number of entries that could be edited to some degree or another to document the story of my father’s early onset pyrokinesis.
The fiery pyrokinecoccus bacterial infections usually don’t take hold until adolescence (to those susceptible to them), so for it to happen to one so young was quite distressing to his parents. In the additional entries created for the story I attempted to mimic my grandmother’s diarist style. With the abundance of source material it was often possible to find close phrase and punctuation examples for the wholly original entries.
These diaries have been in my possession for quite some time and I would page through them now and then; but I found myself doing that much more frequently after my father passed away in 2019. Here was a window into the family that raised my father (and aunt and uncle, who came along later). While these grandparents lived into my early adulthood, as happens so often with the young I passed up the opportunities to better acquaint myself with these primary sources for my family history. The diaries, and other documents my aunt has preserved and passed on to me from time to time provide the next best account of my ancestry.
This historical raw material gives me, a writer, an honest look at life in that time and at that place upon which I can imagine fanciful stories of what could have been. To celebrate my ancestry and those who made me so much of what I am today.
An entry in the diary that references my father, from July 1938, is one I read during his eulogy:
I noted that growing up and to this day I too am rather fond of making piles of leaves and grass and setting them on fire. The modified version of this entry is the final one of the story. It serves as both a finale and a connection between me, my father, and the stories that we tell. I like to think, and I try to live my life showing, that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree–other than my being unable to point at something to set it on fire.