I am hearing voices.
They are coming from the fragile pages of a diary written by a teenager more than 100 years ago. The writer is Ada Steele. She is lonely, and she is bored.
“Ironed all day”
“Went to town this afternoon”
So many things I cannot understand about her life: She lives without technology, on a rural farm where women’s roles are narrowly defined. But there is so much we have in common, and it involves love.
Mundane entries are punctuated with small details about Ada’s family, chiefly her dear sister, Nan, as in this entry where they share a small routine: weighing themselves on the scale at the general store.
Nan stopped as she went to Church. She and I went to town and I weighed 137 and she 117 1/2
A few days later, on June 5th, this entry:
After I got home Nan and I went to town. The last ride I will ever take with her in single life. Weighed 140
At 25, Ada’s best friend and sister is to be married, and Ada is devastated:
At 5 o’clock we all went to Elder Shultz’s to witness Nan’s marriage. To speak of the sadness this day brought for me in parting with one who had been a constant companion since childhood would be difficult indeed. May God bless her and make her heart happier than that of her poor sister. She has left.
I am fascinated by the slow history of this singular life. Amid the quiet entries of routine life, there shines out a voice sharing the universal human experiences of love, friendship, and loneliness. Her heart transcends her words.
A few months ago, I began sharing Ada’s witness, day by day on a twitter account. I am living her entries over again, daily (The Grand’s Say (@seq6632).
“June 1 1896: A great many things I do not wish to remember. Therefore I will not write them, so in time they may be forgotten.”
Some day, but not quite yet.