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Writing down your thoughts can capture family history

Walk the aisles of nearby stores right now, and you’ll find Halloween candy, fall decor, and even an abundance of Christmastime fare for sale.

A lot of people tend to get worked up when holiday decorations go up while the trees are still in the process of changing colors. To these people I would have to say, tough cookies. I love getting out my tree and lights as early as possible! In fact, I have a handful of small decorative Christmas trees that stay up year round.
I think embracing the holiday season early is one of the ways that I fight my disdain about winter overall. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

But the effort to fill the shelves at local stores with wooden pumpkins and wire Christmas trees and signs that welcome everything from the fall harvest to Santa himself, stores have to move the previous sought-after items to the clearance rack.

And this time of year is when the clearance rack beckons me, more than any other time.

It’s back-to-school clearance time.

I have a small hoarding problem. I cannot seem to own enough notebooks. And do you know where you can buy all of the notebooks around for pennies on the dollar? That’s right. It’s at the back-to-school clearance rack.

I believe it’s possible that I inherited this need to collect notebooks of all sizes from my mother. My Mom always had a notebook handy. She was notorious for jotting down notes. She’d write it down if someone on television said something that she found interesting, helpful, profound or just funny.

After my Mom passed away, I snatched up a small notebook that was next to her chair, and in it I found what I can only describe as a treasure. I found pieces of my mother from when she was alone.

The notebook was not organized in any way. On one page, she had scribbled down times. 12. 2:30. 5. I stared at it for a long time before realizing that she had been suffering from a bit of insomnia, and she was jotting down the times she woke up in the middle of the night.

On another page, in my mother’s signature script, was the note, “lunch, call Barb.” A reminder that my mother absolutely cherished her girlfriends, and made time for them even as she got older and had a harder time getting around.

On still another page, a movie quote.

“I’m at the jumping off place.”

It’s a line said by Ninny Threadgoode in “Fried Green Tomatoes” as she notes that she isn’t afraid to die. That my mother wrote that down is a reminder to me that while I wasn’t really ready to lose her, she was ready to go.

I don’t necessarily write down as many things as my mother did, but I always, always have pen and paper. My notebooks are large and small. I collect legal pads, sticky notes, wired notebooks, hard-cover journals. If you look at my desk, it probably seems like just a mess of piles of paper, but it’s not. My notebooks each have a purpose. Work notes, home notes, kid notes.

I use one notebook to write down fictional story ideas for the novel I have no intention of ever actually writing. I have another dedicated to comedy sketch ideas.

I buy them off clearance. I fill some pages. Some stay blank for years before they become useful to me.

But the idea that one day my own children and grandchildren can get a peek into my life, as I did into my mother’s, keeps me buying them.

Just a few days ago, I picked up one of my many bedside notebooks to jot down something work-related that came to me as I was getting ready to retire for the night. As I flipped through to the next available page, I found drawings. They were scribbled people with word bubbles over their heads, and I realized that they were the artwork of my youngest son, George. Only, it wasn’t recent. These were playful drawings he clearly made years ago, and somehow in a notebook that eventually made its way to my bedside.

George, it seems, has also inherited my mother’s penchant for jotting everything down.

We should probably hit the back-to-school clearance aisle this week.

• Marney Simon is the editor of the Morris Herald-News. She can be reached at

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