Dear Readers - Sometimes I give an answer, which I believe is appropriate for the particular reader who asked it, not necessarily for everyone. However, from a universal view, my answer can strike a sour note with some who disagree. Here's an interesting example:
The Question, Nov. 21 column - "What's your advice regarding old diaries? I have adult children. I kept diaries in the 1960's, through high school and university."
My Answer rested on the fact that this woman had diarized only her teenage and early-20s in the freewheeling Sixties. She clearly wondered how her adult children would feel about what they'd read.
Reader #1 - "I'm a man, 60, who's been keeping a journal for more than ten years.
"I've written with the full expectation that my children and grandchildren will some day read them with great interest and insight, not just for what they relate about me and my experiences, but what my life is/was like "way back" at the turn of the century.
"As a history major in university, I know that diaries and other primary sources (newspapers, letters, official records of meetings, etc.) are an invaluable look into what people's lives were like, what they thought, how they were affected by things going on around them.
"Today, with e-mail, texting, video-conferencing and so on, what permanent records are being kept?"
Reader #2 - "Diaries are the voice of who we were; they are our memories. As a man in his 60's, struggling with losing parts of my life that I can no longer remember, I wish desperately that I had such a valuable reminder of the person I was a half century ago.
"I believe in the value of truth. The more we know of who our parents and our children are, the roads they've taken, and what they learned on them, the more fully we can love them. To suggest that a saccharine history can ever truly feed what our hearts hunger for is naive at best.
"My advice is to label the diaries, so that the children know what decision they're making if they choose to read them. And read them, often, so you can share the joy of who you were with the person you have become.
"(I know you said that children could be allowed to read portions of a diary, after the scene had been set. The problem with this is that then the children will have to rely on their memories of what they read. Memory fades over the years.)
"If my children want to read my "coming of age" thoughts, then I think it would help them as young women, and maybe even help them raise their own daughters.
"Ultimately, everyone needs to decide what to do. But to give blanket advice, to destroy written personal history is misguided, in my opinion."
Ellie - There's my mistake ....I didn't intend to give "blanket" advice. I wrote in response to that one person, based on the very limited information she provided, and my (perhaps wrong) assumptions about her vagueness in describing the content.
I should've made that clearer, because I too believe in passing on the history of who we are and who we were. After spending years in journalism as a reporter, editor, and columnist, it'd be odd if I didn't value the writings and records of the past as well as the present.
Reader #3 - "I was a teenager in the 70's... celibate until marriage, never used drugs, and wrote nothing I'd be ashamed for my adult children to read.
"Even if there were, wouldn't it be better to do some censoring? And then leave my thoughts for them to read? I'd hope it'd make them feel closer to me and give them insight... help them understand who I was and how I became the person they only knew as an adult."
Reader #4 - "I found an old diary of my mother's after she died. Yes, it has a lot of personal information I might not have wanted to know while she was alive, but now its precious to me - seeing her as a teenager and young adult - with all her mistakes and joys. You could've told this parent to hide the diaries away in a safety deposit box for reading after she's gone."
Tip of the day:
Diaries are personal documents as well as history, and the decision of what to do with them, especially while living, is also personal.