"My mother owned a long narrow cedar trunk that
looked to me, when I was a little girl, like a coffin. It was at the end
of her bed and my mother would pile quilts on the coffin, covering its
surface. If the quilts were spread over a bed, I would see that the wood
was carved with flowered panels. Among these flowers sat a small copper
lock, cool as a wasp, securing my mother’s box from the destructive
forces of curious children like me.
found a way to break into the trunk, but when I saw the contents, I
couldn’t understand why my mother had locked it to begin with. It was
filled with the most mundane things imaginable: A stack of white
embroidered napkins, china cups and plates with silver at the edges, a
cut crystal candy bowl, an album that contained mementos of me, my
sister, and my brother: locks of hair, scraps of baby blankets, inked
baby footprints. The
air was musty inside the trunk, as if I’d entered the closed darkness
of a cellar. I’d expected to find bars of gold bullion, jeweled cups, or
at least a birthday present hidden among the tissue paper."
What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose-knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful, that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art. The main requisite, I think, on reading my old volumes, is not to play the part of a censor, but to write as the mood comes or of anything whatever; since I was curious to find how I went for things put in haphazard, and found the significance to lie where I never saw it at the time.