I propose an explanation for why Theresa Tempest Williams’ mother kept and then gave volumes of vacant journals to her daughter. Note: my hypothesis is given in the manner of collapsing the wave function: Schrodinger (physics) in which a measurement - in this case, my hypothesis - provides one of an infinite number of possibilities.
Here is my measurement, my hypothesis:
A woman longs to write her story. She yearns to tell herself and, perhaps, the world what she thinks, feels, observes, does, wants, hopes, fears, loves, hates, resents, believes. But she is terrified; she simply cannot say any of it. The most she can do is to make, collect and hide the journals (handmade, one by one, added methodically, secretively, lovingly over the years) that would hold her inner life if she only had the courage to pick up the pen and write the first word. But she cannot. Someone has terrified her, paralyzed her ability to have her voice made incarnate by pen on paper. She longs for it though. The volumes are testimony to this longing.
Whatever terrified her was cruel. It was probably a person; it almost always is; it almost certainly was.
She is dying. The cruelty that terrified her and made her mute is too much to bear and she shrugs it off onto the heart of her daughter, who only wants to know her mother and knows, in the most excruciating way now that her mother is about to die, that she does not. The mother is well aware that she has been aloof, that her daughter longs to know; the mother knows she can never say who she is, or even that she is. But the mother knows that the daughter desperately hopes …
The mother merely inhabits a body, makes noises and movements that align with all the rest. She can never reveal herself. She knows that and holds that at the same time she knows her daughter’s desperate need to know her. She is terrified to reveal herself, and this is the result of some human cruelty which she can bear no more, especially now on her deathbed when it is all too clear that the daughter wants to know her.
(Shakespeare could not have done a better job crafting a plot at this point.)
Like a forward pass, the mother hands off the cruelty that was foisted upon her to her daughter by promising her - and this promise occurs as they both are lying in the mother’s death bed - the secret knowledge when she knows, by design, that the empty journals will be a perpetuation of the cruelty of silence, the cruelty of no voice, the cruelty of infinite silence forever - passed on to her own daughter!
This was a bad thing to do. Now, it takes great strength and courage to see the cruelty of what the mother did, to accept the cruelty of it for what it is: evil. But here is the gift of it, as I see it: we can hardly know ourselves well, even after decades trying. Can we really know anyone else? Would filled up journals have helped all that much, or perhaps muddied the waters further?
What the daughter, Theresa, can do is to begin to write in those journals herself! Fill them with memories of her mother, of her own childhood. Do what her mother could never do. Do it! Take those journals and rewrite history.
And while you’re at it, poke around in the family archives and find out what the historic cruelty was, and who did it. Write that into the journals.
And then re-write the story: you find the journals that your mother has so kindly finally left to you as your rightful inheritance and they are all filled with stories and memories about you, the daughter, Theresa. The journals are all about you. Write beautiful stories about yourself. From what little I have learned about you, listening to the interview with you today, I know those stories are magnificent and myriad.
Do what your mother could never do. Do it for her and for yourself.
And that’s what voice is.
More information about text formats