by Elise Seyfried
Quick—what was the date of your son’s first day of playgroup 25 years ago? When in 1993 did you go to the dentist? Do you know if 2000 was the year you went to the family reunion in Virginia?
Didn’t think so.
Ah, but I know these dates in my life. You see, I took notes.
For a period of almost 30 years, I wrote the details of our comings and goings in those little datebooks Hallmark tucks into the bag when you buy greeting cards. There wasn’t room to write much for each day, but I hit the highlights. As a result, I can look up almost any week from 1974 to 2002 and tell you (if you care) what my family and I were up to. I kept these records religiously for so long that it is a real pity I gave up.
After the Hallmark era, I had begun my job at church, and bought those annual day planners. These entries reflected only my professional life, but still they were useful for recalling specific moments in time. I can flip through and bring my fun-filled trip to the Lutheran synod assembly in ’06 right back. Not that I necessarily want to, mind you…
We still keep a wall calendar in the kitchen, but these notations are spotty at best, and sometimes whole months go by with no one writing anything down. These are the months when we miss the birthday parties and book club meetings because no one in the house can remember that well. Every year at this time, as fall arrives and school and my husband Steve’s new theatre season and the church program year all start, I renew my vow to do better, but since 2003 we’ve gone pretty much un-chronicled.
A few months ago I was up in the attic and came upon a set of journals I wrote when Steve and I were on the road on our first children’s theatre tour of the Northeast (beginning in Ticonderoga, NY, in January of 1979). The days were busy indeed, but the nights afforded enough time for me to scribble the tales of our shows and travels in minute detail. Alas, this stint in our lives, scintillating to us as it was at the time, would never crack the New York Times bestseller list.
When floods and fires and tornadoes strike, I watch TV footage of families who have lost everything, including their scrapbooks, diaries and calendars. The keenest memory cannot begin to recapture the full story of them. This is why you see folks sifting through the ruins desperately for any trace of their history, and why it is such a sad and poignant sight.
Unless we prove to be famous in some way, few will value our dates and times and places in the future. So why bother?
Because it does matter. My time here matters to me, and I need some prompting to keep it all in mind. My life, every second of it, is a precious gift from God. It would be a sin (literally) to let it pass without my even noticing, without recording at least some details. A few well-chosen words can bring back an entire season of my earthly span. Sure, it takes a little effort to write things down. Sure, I’m busy. But am I really too busy to mark my days before they all slip away?
So that settles it. I’m going back to Hallmark soon. The 2014 calendars will be coming out. 2014 will, I’m sure, bring new people, places and experiences into my life. I’m looking forward to it all. And later, I’ll enjoy reliving those times prompted by my notes, thankful for the priceless opportunity to be on this amazing planet, living a life I cherish, for another year.
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children and of a self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life,” a collection of essays, humorous but with a spiritual focus. More information at eliseseyfried.com.