Diaries Unlocked: Getting to Know My Mother as a Young Woman

November 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

In between writing jobs I have been submerged lately in a hidden world. I’ve just completed translating diaries my mother wrote from 1939-44 detailing her feelings and experiences as a young missionary in northern Norway. Written in Norwegian in a fine old-fashioned script that makes it hard to decipher some of the letters, it is the account of a young woman who traveled to Finnmark, sometimes known as Lapland, eager to serve.

My mother brought the two hard-bound volumes from Norway when we moved here in 1950 and they remained out of sight in the bottom of a box of papers until she died 13 years ago. I don’t know how she’d feel to know I have translated them. Her inmost thoughts, struggles, observances on her co-workers at the mission where she worked, the love story between her and the man who would become my father are now translated, to the best of my ability, and entered into a computer file.

She wrote beautifully, full of expression and never stingy with sharing her feelings. While northern Norway was occupied by the Germans during the time she was writing her diary, she barely mentions it. More real to her was her own day-to-day life. She wrote of traveling with her guitar strapped to her back to teach at outpost Sunday schools, or leading singing in the meetings in homes and small churches. Of ski tours and haying in the mountain fields, of berry picking, dish washing, of rich friendships, and sometimes feelings hurt, and the joys of letters arriving in the post. She loved Jesus, loved traveling, and was ready for new adventures. A beautiful love blossomed out of friendship as my mother and father worked and lived in the same children’s home/mission house with the rest of the staff.

I would hope my mother would be pleased, because these diary entries have opened a new world to me. I feel I know the young woman she was in a way I never have before and can better understand the wife and mother she became. The feelings she unstintingly documented are a treasure and a discovery.

Now I’m doing the same thing. I’m digging out and inputting into the computer letters I’ve written in the years we lived in the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, and on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Letters others saved and returned to me. I envision one day a great-granddaughter or great-grandson discovering these accounts in an old file when I am gone and understanding me better.

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