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Perhaps Terry's mother collected these journals (or accepted them as gifts, or both) in the same way that people keep adding to their collection of cookbooks, each one seen as the first act in realizing the dream of producing all those wonderful dishes for family and friends.

But what makes it so difficult to understand is why Terry's mother would ask Terry to promise not to look at the journals until after she had died. Embarrassment, perhaps? It's certainly plausible that she would have been embarrassed about collecting so many empty journals, but still felt that Terry, as a writer, would finally make good use of them. Maybe it didn't occur to her that Terry would feel such anguish at finding each one empty.

Or was she under the delusion that she had actually written in them?