Mother’s Five-year Diary
for Sharon Olds
1946: Hold That Blonde, Somewhere in the Night, Weekend at the
Waldorf, Fallen Angel, Stolen Life, Shy Pilot, Too Young to Know,
The Harvey Girls, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Tarzan,
Leopard Woman, Diary of a Chambermaid, Easy to Wed,
Thrill of Brazil, Scandal in the Night, Two Guys from Milwaukee.
Mother’s diary came into my hands after her sister died.
Early in marriage she had left it in the custody of Rose,
who knew well of her longings, and would keep it private.
Rose said Mom had always been a little boy crazy.
The small leather-bound book is divided into five spaces,
four lines for each entry on a page, for five years from 1946
to 1950. The cryptic, cursive entries hint of her varied love
interests, and of hair washing, boredom,
playing Canasta, and taking the long way home.
In the year of 1946 my mother saw 53 movies, usually one
a week, though some weeks in spring she saw two. On February 15
the weather foiled her plans: Started to the show but had to turn back
due to snowstorm. The drive of someone deeply committed? Yes,
but to what—films? Or, was she determined so young
to break free of the dirty hard work of farm life?
The youngest daughter of six, each morning at 6:00 she
emptied the cows’ udders while Rose helped their mother
in the kitchen. During threshing and harvest, she also helped in the fields.
Her entries on threshing days are brief, her letters large and loopy,
made by a girl in the delirium of exhaustion.
On Saturday nights she luxuriated in other worlds: silk stockings,
cashmere sweaters and trains. On Sunday mornings,
at the little church in Crary, North Dakota, there was ample time
during the sermon to review scenes from the night before.
In the part where she begins to vacillate between her love for
Don C. and my dad, I think to offer words of encouragement.
I want her to have a stable life and faithful love,
to avoid suffering. Then I remember that my existence,
my love, my kids, my poems, my home
hinge on her bad decision.
1950: Great Lover, Chicago Deadline, Doctor and a Girl, That Midnight Kiss, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Silver Star, Heiress, Mighty Joe Young, The Jolsen Story, Pinky, Battleground, Bride for Sale, Adam’s Rib, Tokyo Joe, Dear Wife, Iwo Jima, Lady Takes a Sailor, Lucille Ball, Birdman, Christopher Columbus Came Early, Riding High, Gentleman’s Agreement, Twelve O’clock High, Malaya, The Big Cat, My Foolish Heart, Broken Arrow, Bright Leaf, Duchess of Idaho, Canadian Rockies, Eagle and the Hawk, Mr. 880, Chamber Territory, Robin Hood.
It is Valentine’s Day, 1950, and the pages of the diary
are nearly filled. He gives her a bracelet,
and later a diamond ring, a silk scarf,
an orchid, a corsage of pink carnations,
a silver spoon, four hickies
and a couple of scratches.
Then, on her birthday, October 17, he gives her
a cashmere sweater.
She loves him so much she is scared.
She falls into his arms,
leans backward the way
Ginger once did,
trusting him to hold her
when he might as easily have let her go.
Mary Junge lives and writes in Minnesota. She has studied poetry and memoir with instructors from the Loft, a center for writing in Minneapolis, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and the Key West Literary Seminar. She holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota. In addition to traveling widely, Junge has benefited from writing residencies at Norcroft (Minnesota), Ragdale (Illinois) and Rensing Center’s Italian outpost in Borseda, Liguria, Italy. Junge's poems appear in ArtWord Quarterly, Avocet, bosque, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, National Poetry Winners of the Chester H. Jones Foundation, Loonfeather, Minnesota Poetry Calendars, 100 Words, Rag Queen, Sidewalks, SoulSpeak, The Wolf Head Quarterly, and Water~Stone, among others. Express Train, a chapbook, was published by Pudding House Publications. Pilgrim Eye, a full collection of poetry was published by the Laurel Poetry Collective.