In 1928, my ten-year-old mom started a journal (which she kept up her whole life). Her childhood entries allowed me to recreate her family’s life and trials. She also documented in great detail her mother’s descent into mental illness.
Dad’s diary entries from 1933-1935 recount a young man’s life on Chicago’s West Side and his upbringing as a janitor’s son whose parents are determined to send all their sons to college. Dad’s 1950-1956 diary reveals Dad’s astute travel observations, the hardship of his weeks-long separations from family, and his interventions to control his psychotic, live-in mother-in-law.
Through the 1960s, Mom wrote about the racially changing neighborhood, two riots, and my parents’ continued devotion and struggles for the next twenty years to maintain buildings in what became a devastated landscape.
As time went by, she wrote about dealing with frightened tenants in a crime-ridden community, as well as her frustration, anger, and sadness over the increasing emotional distance between her and Dad.