The Evidence I Wanted?

The previous diary entry was embarrassing enough that it took me over two months to recover, but now I’m ready. I think. Then, I’d bemoaned the fact that all my entries were about boys and social drama, and not about church or any of my other enthusiasms. The evidence I wanted is here, gushing out all over the place. Gushing.

There would come a time when I’d mainly write in my journal about angsty things, but in the beginning of 1984, I clearly wrote when I was feeling most sunny. Note that, in person, all those exclamation points are peppy triangles over little circles.

16th birthdayLast time, I included a one-off entry from August, 1984 that had slipped into the previous diary, but this book is all 1984, starting halfway through grade 11 (my junior year of high school, for my American readers). I’d just turned 16.

New Year’s Not-So-Rockin’ Eve

You will notice that the first entry was New Year’s Day and I was at church, good Christian Reformed girl that I was. Am. There was a good chance that I’d worked the pancake breakfast that morning, which I had little problem waking up for because I wasn’t partying hard with my friends the night before. Nope. Until my second senior year of college, when my parents lived in California, I spent every New Year’s Eve with my extended family.

The big event for my Hart clan was New Year’s Eve. I’m sure this year the kids hung out separately from the adults until we all came together somewhere around 11:45, when my oldest uncle read a Psalm and prayed in the New Year. These were long prayers that I believe got very specific about what had happened in the family that year. My memories of the prayers are vague because it was midnight, my eyes were closed, and I’d probably filched some wine. Scratch the probably — this was my European family. Wine was available. Then we’d creak to our feet, walk around giving kisses and saying “Happy New Year” to everyone, ignore any of the adults who might be having a more intense hug or kiss, have one last bite of food, and head home.

It was tradition. Also, since I try to tell the truth here, I was never invited to do anything else on New Year’s. Never.

The Evidence (a larger chunk than usual since I managed to write for 5 days in a row)

1/1/1984  Happy New Year! Church this morning was good. He talked about faith. H said nobody understood Tuyle’s sermon, even her parents! K slept over. I had dinner at H’s and watched Von Ryan’s Express. The only thing I didn’t like was that Ryan died. R didn’t spend New Year’s Eve with C; H and I are so disappointed. D, the deaf boy from camp, was at her house. They get along really well. Nothing else happened today: so bye! Uncle D came over and the four of us had a really good talk. I feel amazing about myself!

1/7/84  I went out with H, L & N tonight. It was pretty good. A carfull of 4 guys yelled at H and I: ego boost! We pigged out severely. It was a Thurs. today and H and I skipped last class. I know, I know, naughty, naughty, but I know! Life is wonderful! Praise God!

1/8/84 I sat today and read the four Harlequins H and I bought. I had a real riot. They were cute but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

1/9/84 Schuller this morning was great. He talked about faith again: it was really directed to church goers this time. He ties things together so well. I really enjoy listening to him and always learn something. I went nuts trying to read Great Expectations. At the moment I hate that book cause it’s driving me nuts. Oma was also over.

1/10/84 Today just whizzed by! I think it was the shortest Tuesday I’ve ever had! H said that too. Each class seemed like a rec. period. It was great. H and I are doing our English seminar on the title, I hope it works. No workout tonight. Darn! But catechism was great. We talked about parent-child relat. as compared to craftsman-apprentice. It brought up a lot of discussion. We really saw the true colours of some of these kids. Sad! I’m having problems with my devotions: I’m not doing them. I have to shape up. But I think I will start slowly by praying every night, then I will go to reading the Bible every night as well. I thanked God heartily for my family: I always will!

1/11/84 Today has been an absolutely amazing day! It was the 1st ISCF meeting of the year and it went so well. We played games & then had an exec. meeting. We made up such amazing topics. We have two blocks of subjects: relationships and faith! Praise God for the ideas! I know that they came from Him because everyone was so enthusiastic. M was over. At the end (5:15) her and C went to T’s and H, P & I went to Orange Julius and had a riot. We then walked to P’s house, getting crazier as we got colder and had hot choc. I then walked with P and P to Uncle D’s cause they were going swimming there. That was really fun and we walked faster because H wasn’t with us. No, that’s mean. School just zipped by again today: it was great. I’ve started to teach myself to type using R’s book. It’s going to be hard but very useful. Young People’s is probably finished cause L and J quit. I’m really sad but I want to go out with a real bang. Like going to JJ’s cottage and getting plastered. Oh well! H and I are really serious about going on a diet because we severely pigged out. I can tell my workouts are working. I can add 5-10 more pounds to my stomach and the pushups are a lot easier! Praise God!

Where to start?

Those entries are an accurate representation of how I remember my mid-teen years: friends, faith, romance novels, my reality always falling short of my ideals. Actually, this sounds like me now. Let’s do a comparison.

Me at 16: I’m having problems with my devotions: I’m not doing them. I have to shape up. But I think I will start slowly by praying every night, then I will go to reading the Bible every night as well.

Me, just a few days ago: I’m trudging along a path that I have created in my brain, and which my brain desperately wants to remain on, whether it’s leading me where I want to go or not. I am Resisting mightily the development of new habits that would be better than some comfortable old ones. And when I manage to head out on a new path, I drift back to the old one way too soon….That’s it for now. I’m not going to try to revolutionize my entire schedule in one fell swoop. If making that change doesn’t bleed over into my bad evening habits, I’ll revisit this process in the new year.


The second entry cracks me up. Was my response to a litany of random boys honking at me, pigging out severely, and skipping school really, “Praise God!” With an exclamation point? It does sound like a fun day, but I can only shake my head at myself.

An Unusual Child

My parents hadn’t attended our church for a few years already; I’d either watch Robert Schuller on the Crystal Cathedral on TV with them, or walk to church by myself and be the final Hart family representative in “our” pew. I’d listen to the sermon. I was even known to go to evening church, mostly because our minister at the time didn’t feel the same pressure to be the “domine” in the black robes behind the podium then, and gave wonderful messages. I attended Young Peoples. I was an officer in the Inner School Christian Fellowship group at my public high school. I was a representative of our church at regional young people’s planning boards. I went on service weekends and to conferences. I believe at this time I also went to a Friday night Bible study (8pm – 12am) with a bunch of Pentecostals and Baptists in a suburb of Toronto. I was a thoroughly churchy girl, with no specific encouragement to be such by my parents. I just loved it. This makes me unusual, I know. And I still love church. Even when it frustrates me, pains me, hurts me or my friends, it gives me joy and comfort, it challenges me.

Still me

While the grownup me uses very few exclamation points in both public and private writing, most everything else in these posts is still part of who I am. I still thank God for my family every day (although I’m less judgmental about people who didn’t have such great families of origin). I’m still involved in churchy matters. I still read romance novels (although not Harlequins; they’re too short). I still love food, movies, God and my friends. I’m still not as regular as I’d like to be with Bible reading. I still like to periodically skip things for no good reason.

So I will give that dear gushy girl of my past a hug. She wouldn’t always be so up.



My Minor “McKayla Maroney Is Not Impressed” Moment

I admit it. I enjoy the current meme of putting this image of McKayla Maroney on other photos. I wasn’t all that impressed with George Michael last night, either.

But I also have sympathy for her. Here she is, at the moment she expected to triumph, and that everyone else expected her to triumph, to cement herself as the best vaulter in women’s gymnastics, accepting second best. Of course, second best is pretty darn good. But still, it wasn’t how her story was supposed to end (words that always get us into trouble). And the only one she could be upset with was herself. She was the one who messed up. She’s only 16. It’s the rare teenager who could put a genuine smile on his or her face in that situation.

I was not a rare teenager, either. I was 14. It was at the end of my session at Circle Square Ranch, a Christian horse riding camp in Ontario. I’d spent most of the week in the mildest of romances with a boy — we sat next to each other whenever possible, maneuvered ourselves to be in the same groups, held sweaty little hands now and then. The only thing I remember about him, other than straight brown hair (think early Justin Bieber), was that at one of the evening chapels he sang the theme song of “M*A*S*H,” but changed to lyrics to be Christian in some way. My young heart pounded with love and admiration (now, it’d get an eye-roll).

Mild though the romance may have been, it was recognized and acknowledged by our fellow campers. It was a similar relationship to that of my 3rd grade boyfriend, who I broke up with when he kissed me on the stairs in front of everybody. This camp boy never tried to kiss me, although I may not have minded so much by then.

Circle Square Ranch had what I’m sure they thought of as a charming tradition, an end of the week “formal” dinner. It was required that boys and girls went as dates to this dinner. It was required that boys ask the girls and the girl must say “yes” to the first boy who requested her hand. You may sense where this is going. The right boy got to me five minutes too late. Other kids gasped when they heard about it, so I wasn’t the only one who thought this was a massive disappointment, a violation of how things should’ve gone.

Am I sounding too dramatic? Think back to when you were 14.

But it gets worse. The camp was shooting a promotional video of the dinner. I must’ve stayed for two weeks, because the next week, as a great treat, we got to watch the video. Seeing myself on film has always been galvanizing — the following August, on a family camping trip, my dad brought his newest gadget. He filmed me walking on the beach, from the side, with those grew-tall-too-early rounded shoulders, which I was able to see made me look heavier and depressed. You can thank this experience for my excellent posture.

Lessons learned from the camp video:

1. Do not hunch over my food.
2. Pouting like that only looks good on kids 3 and under.
3. Do not put so much mashed potato in my mouth at one time.
4. To be on the safe side, never allow a photo or video to be taken of me while eating.
5. I was choosing to be miserable — I could easily have chosen to have a fine time with the people at my table.

For the most part, I’ve managed to live by those lessons. This experience may even have been the beginning of my feminist leanings, because, really, the whole only-boys-may-ask-girls-who-must-say-yes was patriarchal and ridiculous, not to mention unnecessary at camp.

So thank you, Circle Square Ranch, for teaching me so many important things, although it was none of the things you intended. Also, just so they feel better, I still remember the memory verse: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man.” Which I would now change to “in favor with God and with people.” Forget about making them feel better.


I Wish There Wasn’t Evidence

Oh, the diaries project is getting bad. For those of you new to this party, this is a series in which I go through my childhood diaries. Verbatim. With you.

I wish there was more evidence of me as a child who read a lot, loved school (except 8th grade geometry), had babysitting and painting jobs, loved her family, went to church even when the rest of her family didn’t, and went on as many young people’s retreats/conferences and service weekends as she could. Those were all true. Yet I get this:

grade 8 graduation


Thurs., Feb. 5, 1981, age 13  Teen Club tonight was a learning experience to say the least. At first, I thought my only friend was K. But then I was hiding with D. and he asked me if I hated his guts. I said no, not necessarily. Then I got the surprise of my life, he said he liked me. I wasn’t expecting that. And on the way home I found out that J. doesn’t hate me. Or he did a good job of covering it up, but I think he likes me (normally of course). Bye-bye.


At least that took place at church. There was spiritual content to the club meetings, I swear. But it was clearly eclipsed in importance by the social angle. I’ll do well to remember this when my kids’ reports on their youth group evenings include nothing about God or Jesus.

According to the evidence, during those early teen years, I mainly wrote diary entries when I had something of a romantic nature to report. The next entry after the above was July 31, 1982, then September 15, 1983, and then August 24, 1984. Yup, I really got around. Even less when you consider that only one of those was about anything actually happening.

Let’s rip the band aid off and not delay another second.

7/31/82, age 14  Haven’t seen ya in over a year or so. Tell you what’s new. I’m going into gr. 10, I don’t like anyone in particular, I’m a Gen. Hosp. and Y&R nut. I’m fat. I’m not really that fat but I’ve graduated to a size 30 jean and weigh a touch over 130. So, I promised myself that in August I would do swim training, and, I suppose I will. I really have to lose weight/fat and get rid of my zits. I have 6 weeks until school and I’m doing to do it!! It’s 11 p.m., R’s at camp and I’m going to dreamland good-bye.

9/15/83, age 15  What a frustrating weekend. JW is a really nice guy. We went for 2 long walks in the total dark, arm in arm. That’s all he did. I think he liked me because we were around each other a lot but we could never really talk. He was too serious anyway. And the ass didn’t even acknowledge my presence that Sunday. (This was at the Kwasind weekend.) Boy was I pissed off. Oh well. This was an almost fling. He never tried anything beyond arm in arm.

16th birthday


8/26/84, age 16  I had a fling today in Michigan! J and I went to the Hope College dance and on the way we met G and another guy. We went to G’s house (he looks GREAT in a towel). Not until Highway to ____ song did we dance and boy did we dance. To make a long story short we ended up making out all over the place: room off the dance floor, dance floor, car…. He gives the impression of tenderness and reverence by touching my hair, face, arms and back softly.


I can’t even tell you how much I hated typing all that. I hate the evidence of how I talked to myself about how “fat” I was, of how much mental energy I wasted, making elaborate plans to solve that non-problem. I did have spectacularly bad skin. Any attempts to address it only made me feel worse about myself, so I alternated between ignoring it and loathing myself for it. Which I suppose is how I’m feeling about those long ago feelings. Come to think of it, I did lose weight before school that year — I got really, really sick, like 104 degree fever sick.

Something more properly momentous happened at that 1983 weekend: it was the first time I took Communion. It was a mixed-denomination retreat for teenagers, and when Sunday came they served Communion. I took it even though I hadn’t done Profession of Faith yet. The blurb in the program invited everyone who believed in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour (it being Canada, we had the “u” in savior) to participate. So I did. I was such a rebel. Actually, it did feel rebellious. That weekend, my heart pounded with nerves both because I was taking Communion when I “shouldn’t have” and because a boy I kind of liked didn’t try to kiss me. Those 2 walks in the dark out in the country, sitting on a dock overlooking an inland lake, no light pollution, falling stars, etc. were worth it, even if they didn’t result in what I wanted.

The 1984 entry sounds like more than it was. J and I went to this guy’s house, but he was our age, so it was his parents’ house. It was show-offy of him to come out in a towel, though, before returning to his room to get dressed. I’m sure he had some reasonable explanation, like that he’d just gotten back from work. And someone tell me why I could make out with a boy I’d just met, yet wouldn’t spell the word “Hell” in my private diary entry? Oh the contradictions.

My family and I listen to a lot of Bill Cosby when we drive anywhere that takes longer than a half-hour. His “75$ Car” bit is mostly about a junker he drove, but he starts out by detailing the relationship with the girl he drove the junker to go see. It has a few lines about kissing that are filled with nostalgia for the days of endless kissing (my favorite line is “kissin’ up on the whatnot shelf”). The days when it was just about kissing and not anything further. At 16, for me, that was all it was about. That and G. did what I call the Sound of Music kiss, which was worth a diary entry.

When Captain von Trapp kissed Maria for the first time out in the gazebo, putting his hands tenderly and reverently on her face, it was imprinted on me as the ideal romantic kiss. I remain impressed that a 16- or 17-year-old boy had that in his repertoire. It’d be almost 10 years before a boy did that again — and I married him.

So, people, throw that one in now and then. It’s a lovely kiss. Maybe enough to inspire a diary entry even now.


Diaries: Ordinary Teenager

What do teenagers do? Sleep in, watch a lot of movies and TV, and obsess about their appearance and social relationships. Yup.

1/3/81 Today I watched football, washed my hair and returned some overdue books. My hair finally went the way I wanted it to. Then we had a speedy dinner  with Oma and then went to Ordinary People. It’s a really neat movie. It was really good. A mature movie, excellent acting. I really enjoyed it. Bye-bye.

1/4/81 I was asleep ’till 11:00 a.m. so I missed half of the day. I saw the movie Seems Like Old Times for the 2nd time. I think it’s really funny. Then I watched skating. Two people skated separately then got marks together. There were 3 10’s given. One to Dorothy Hamel and someone else. The other two were given to Peggy Flemming & Toller Cranston. Tomorrow we go back to school. Bye-bye.

2/5/81 Teen Club tonight was a learning experience to say the least. At first, I thought my only friend was K. But then I was hiding with D. and he asked me if I hated his guts. I said no, not necessarily. Then I got the surprise of my life, he said he liked me. I wasn’t expecting that. And on the way home I found out that J. doesn’t hate me. Or he did a good job of covering it up, but I think he likes me (normally of course). Bye-bye.

Indeed, ordinary teenager stuff. I remember the February incident. D. is the boy I loved when I was 9. Even though I was all of 13 here, he still made me feel all fluttery and terrified. On this day, we were either playing Sardines, a fun variant of Hide and Go Seek (coincidentally, that my kids learned from their Canadian cousins this month), or Hide and Go Seek in the dark. In Sardines, one person hides and everyone else seeks. When a seeker finds the hider, they hide with him or her, until everyone is squeezed in like sardines and the last person finds everyone.

D. and I were hiding in a supply closet at church. I, true to form, as soon as he entered the closet, stumbled over church decorating supplies in my haste to get deeper into the closet, as far away from him as I could, something that could be mistaken for distaste, but was more like the terror of a mouse when the cat is near. I’m ridiculously overstating it even now.

What’s curious about this is the question of how to use these memories of teenage crushes in my writing of the David book. Being a teenager in 1,000 BCE was not the same as being a teenager now. They were essentially adults. If I had been born then, I probably would’ve been married off at 13, not lazing about thinking about who liked me. Boys were working in the fields since the age of 10 or so, although they didn’t marry until the end of their teenage years or later.

Still, there had to be some of the same emotional immaturity teenagers now have. In my telling of the story of how David came to marry Saul’s daughter Michal, Saul throws a dinner to officially introduce David to the rest of his family. At this point, David has served in the army with Saul and his sons who are of age, but since Saul clears the room when David plays for him, and since any smart king would keep his young daughters away from the army, David has only caught glimpses of the daughters, maybe heard them from out a window, and probably heard servants gossip about them during his years of living in the fortress. Just enough contact to know that Merab is a pill and Michal is intriguing enough that when the offer from the king turns from marrying Merab to marrying Michal, David doesn’t fight quite as hard against it. Here are some snippets in which I try to uncover some teenage romantic angst (David is 18).

Did the king order him to wear the cloak so he’d look marriageable tonight? Or was it a not-so-subtle signal that Saul would try to kill him again if he didn’t cooperate? Knowing the king, it was probably both.

The cloak made all the spots on the tunic stand out, so David wrapped it tightly enough that less than a handbreadth of the tunic was visible. He secured it with his own belt, which was actually Jonathan’s. It looked so disreputable next to the linen, it was a joke: you can dress up a goat, but you can’t invite it to dinner unless it’s dead.

He tugged at the lapel to smooth it against his chest and fingered the embroidery. The sandstorm in his stomach made small, swirling eddies that died down when he breathed deeply. He grabbed his lyre and trudged up the hill to the city proper.


Not singing words was odd, but the rest of it was fine with him. Sitting in a corner and playing his lyre was something he could do with his eyes closed, so he did. As usual, joy and peace sunk into his soul while he played. He couldn’t keep silent, so he sang sounds, his voice bending and sliding and adapting to his mood.

He opened his eyes a sliver to gauge whether they were enjoying the music. Michal was watching him through the curtain of her hair, out of the corner of her eyes. His skin went hot and prickly and his throat closed up. Now that he’d caught her looking at him, he couldn’t stop himself from checking to see whether she still was. After the fourth time, he shifted so she wasn’t in his sightline.


At breakfast the next day, David stirred his leban. The paleness of the yoghurt and wheat nestled in the warm brown bowl reminded him of Michal, her creamy cloak next to her nutty skin.

Oh, I’m so glad I’m not a teenager anymore. I have one in the house, though, so I’m going through those years again, whether I want to or not.