Rebecca Zornow's Childhood Journals

Go Ahead, Read My Diary, See If I Care

I ran as fast as I could through the streets. My little, annoying brother and his two friends just took my best friend hostage. The worst part was they wouldn’t even have to put her feet to the flames to get at the juicy secrets. They’d just open her pages.

She was my high school journal.

Covers of childhood journal

The front cover was blue with “The Book of Rebecca” spelled out in craft glue. Or maybe it was the purple “Book of Rebecca II.” I can’t remember what issue, but I ran after my brother on his bike for ten minutes trying to win my journal back. It would be disastrous if someone peaked inside.

Even today, my journals stay carefully tucked away because I was 100% open with my friend. I started Book 1 on January 31, 2003 and finished Book 2 October 13, 2006 so they span almost my entire high school career. I started the journal because I was in ninth grade and really needed a friend. I kept going because I had a lot to say (it turns out I still do). Paging through them now, it’s shocking how honest and detailed I was. As if I never imagined someone getting their hands on the books.

When I open them, there’s my youth spelled out:

               [Names redacted] were working on a math problem…I place my hand on my hip. To my absolute horror, the side zipper holding my skirt is wide open. I could feel my bare flesh and underwear under my hand. I let out this strangled laugh that sounded surprised and I raced out of the room, to the bathroom.

               …It made me so mad. I am always there. I feel unwanted. And she wonders why I’ve “had problems opening up.” I want to cry but I can’t.

              [Redacted]’s out of the hospital but the doctors never found out what was wrong with him. He needs more tests done but at least he’s feeling a lot better now.

               We went to Olive Garden, a rich Italian place.

               Just then, she asked me if I liked [Redacted]. He’s pretty shy, but when you talk to him, he’s cool. Anyways, I asked her why she wanted to know and she said he liked me! All she would saw was she got it from a reliable source. I didn’t know what to say at all. How could he like me? He barely knows me.

I wish could give 15-year-old me advice. And especially 14-year-old me, yikes. I didn’t know that my low grade in geography would never matter and that the grade was more representative of the teacher. I wish I responded kinder more often and been patient with others as we tried to get through adolescence. I should have told that middle-aged man from church to shut it when he berated me in front of a group for not smiling.

But like life, my journals are filled with more beautiful things than bad. Embarrassing stories and worries make up a lot of my writing, but also funny moments with friends, dreams, shopping lists, ticket stubs, angry scribbles, travels, diagrams of things I didn’t have words to describe, and so, so many descriptions of high school love triangles.

Of course I wrote about Nicole (Nicole, my journal remembers the Moulin Rouge poster I bought for your 18th birthday and that time you had a dream so scary you couldn’t go to school).

At some point I became aware that Nicole was keeping a journal too. I recorded that I thought Nicole wanted to be an author because she was writing so much. TBH, I was more interested in Nicole’s closet than her journal. I went to great lengths to make sure she didn’t know when I wore her Ugg boots to school. Then, I guess one day I wondered what was in Nicole’s journal and if she wrote about me. So…I did it. I did read one page of Nicole’s journal. There. I said it.

A couple of months before I left for the Peace Corps, Nicole took me to dinner and gave me a journal. She asked if I would keep a journal while in Swaziland and said that she’d do the same. When I got back, we’d trade and read about each other’s lives and  understand a little bit of what each other experienced over the two years.

And another thing, she said. She had an idea to write a book together. A memoir of our childhood and separation and reunion as sisters out in this great big world.

Well, we did it. Nicole and I wrote a book together. We haven’t found an agent to take it on yet, but we’re eager to share it with the world, and when we do, you can look forward to a few more embarrassing stories and cry-fests. The very start of that book didn’t happen when we reached adulthood or even when Nicole had the idea.

The start was in our childhood journals where we learned to write like Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood quotesays in The Blind Assassin: “The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person and not even by yourself at some later date.”

I don’t remember if my brother gave me the journal back out of pity or if I won it with a valiant punch to the gut, but somehow I got it safe and sound and never made a point to ask what he and his friends read. I’d really rather not know.


If you’re still with me, here’s one of the most amusing passages from my journal. If I could title it now, it’d be: A very long tale in which our van ends up in a lake. Apologies to everyone (and shame on them too) who played a role in making this journal entry possible.


My spring break is now officially over. The first bell just rang.

If I think about it, my break was ok. Trista slept over last Saturday and I started a website.

Last night, wow. This may even take more than Bible class to get it all down.

Like I said, Trista slept over the night before and she rode to church with us. It was family day so we all stayed in church instead of going to our classes. We had bowling after church along with, of course, a pot luck.

[…one long description of bowling with friends later…]

We started to leave. Sarah was getting a ride to her house but the rest of us were going to Kristin’s house. The three of us stole Nicole’s keys so we could sit in the van. Well, it was taking a while so Sarah and I talked Trista into driving a little.

The Edwards saw us as they were leaving and the look Ken gave us was hilarious. We just cracked up. I wanted Trista drive the van around and hide it, but she was afraid her mom would walk out.

So, we all left (Dad and Ryan took the other van home). On the way back from Sarah’s, Lizzy decided she should moon someone on the highway. I’m sitting in the front seat, dying laughing while Liz was putting her butt up to the side window but the person didn’t see. Oh man, I can’t believe she did that though.

Driving into Kristin’s apartment complex, we were like this is not going to be fun. We walk up and they’re outside! This time of year!? Hello, we do live in Wisconsin, it still freezes in the spring. Some of them were playing basketball, a few climbed a tree, and some were hitting each other with broken branches (?). It starts snowing and I’m like this is enough and I go inside. We were all watching Trading Spaces and laughing about these interior decorators.

Marisa—wow, I just walked into geography and Mr. Winkles shaved his beard—comes running down breathing heavily. She pulled Sarah out and the rest of us were like, what happened? Marisa acted really excited and as if something really urgent happened. I was thinking Tony fell out of that tree so I wasn’t too concerned. Reuben and Crystal went to try and eavesdrop for us because Jamie was on crutches and I didn’t really care.

It must have been ten minutes before I went outside. I don’t remember if it was to find out what happened or if it was to find something to do.

Marisa and Sarah were standing right around the corner of the house near the basketball court. I stopped to ask what was happening. Marisa said my van was in a lake! She told me they were driving because they got bored and somehow they drove right in. I was freaking out. My van in a lake? Great. I imagined one of those boat launching docks and our van underwater.

I asked what way the lake was and then went to check it out.

Hmmmm…it’s almost English class and I can’t write in her classroom.

…In English we wrote a sentence and then passed it around in a group to be added on to. I started with a girl riding at a ranch. By the end the horse ended up at a glue factory.

Anyways, I was walking to the lake and my toes were freezing but it wasn’t snowing anymore.

It wasn’t too far. Only to the other side of the apartment complex. There were some swampy woods. Then the van.

I walked out and saw our little minivan not in a lake but in a small swampy stream. There was mud and water halfway up the tires. The hood wasn’t quite under the water though. I just stood there looking at it, laughing. Lizzy, Tony, and Reuben were standing off to the side on the dry part so I ignored them. I noticed Tonia sitting in the van. Lizzy told me Ton wasn’t in there when it happened but jumped to the hood and crawled in to the window to get a few things.

I was told what happened was they thought it was a shallow puddle.

This is getting really long.

To skip a head a few hours, a tow truck was coming but only a handful of people knew. This didn’t include Kristin’s parents and it was dark and freezing.

Nicole, Lizzy, Marissa, and I were standing near the van waiting for the tow truck.

I need to finish this later, I better start listening.

I’m home now.

So we were freezing our toes off-literally. I had given Lizzy my socks because I was wearing Trista’s. Nicole and Marissa had none.

I thought they would get frostbite so I walked to the apartment and asked Kristin for socks. I was leaving when she asked if I wanted an old blanket. I was worried about how I would get it out without letting her parents know.

Kristin asked her parents for an old blanket.

“Hey mom, do we have any old blanket?”

“Now why would you need an old blanket?”

Lots of whispering happened then. I was like uh oh and headed out the door.

Ohhhh, her parents were mad! I don’t remember all what they said, but I was trying to say as little as possible. They were kind of mean about it. It ended with her dad saying “That’s their problem” and her mom said they could come to the house to warm up.

I wasn’t allowed to take the dumb blanket! I snuck off with the socks though.

By the time I got back to the swamp place, Nicole, Lizzy, and Marisa were in someone’s old truck. The doors were just open, but there were no keys in it. I had to put Lizzy’s socks on because she was so cold.

After what seemed like hours, the tow truck guy came. Our savior! An oldish guy who looked exactly like a tow truck driver, complete with pot belly and mullet.

So, to make this long story shortened, the van is in the shop, Nicole’s in big trouble, and I found out from Tonia on this bus this morning that it was Lizzy who was driving. In fact, Nicole told Lizzy she couldn’t drive the van.

My mom found out it was Lizzy driving the van about half an hour ago. It did not go well.

God help us when Lizzy get’s her driver’s license.


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