Polaroid illustration: ChuChu Briquet for FREDERICK & SOPHIE
Location: Vienna, Austria
Dear Diary…. The trouble is that nothing really begins when it begins. You just have to arbitrarily choose a moment and take it from there. I’ll start with the soft touch of my first diary, a small notebook with gold silhouettes of Indonesian palm trees and traditional Toba Batak houses on its satin cover. A red ribbon functioned as its bookmark. In it, I carefully wrote down my 6 year old observations. There were entries about Goldy, my goldfish —my visit with him to the vet was especially traumatic #fish-are-friends — birthdays, school, my friends, good food (Grandma’s nasi goreng, homemade egg roles), bad food (sprouts & raisins), and the books I had read. Even at that early age I felt the need to write down the world and the people in it. It helped me to understand both a little bit better. Writing also helped me to have a conversation with a “friend.” I didn’t really feel comfortable talking to kids or grownups, and my diary was a patient, kind, and forgiving listener. Most importantly, little non-momentous moments turned into a tale, an adventure, simply by writing them down. Something someone with my rather vivid imagination could appreciate.
As a preteen I penned about my crush on Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block (in the end I decided I loved Donnie more), my summer holidays on the US East Coast, my dressage classes and favorite horses, my wish to be a student at Malory Towers, and my dream to become a jockey. I wrote entry after entry and imagined myself talking to Joop, the witty tomboy protagonist of my favorite Dutch book-series, Joop ter Heul by Cissy van Marxveldt (a pseudonym for Setske de Haan). Published in 1919, the first book is about Joop as a high school student, her story told through letters and diary entries. Joop wrote in her diary to air her often hilarious thoughts and vent about the many rules she had to follow and homework. Joop lived in a villa in a wealthy neighborhood near the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, together with her rich business man dad and snobby, upper class mom, equally snobbish eighteen-year-old sister, Julie, sixteen-year-old brother, Kees, and two maids. She hated school, loved playing pranks with her friends, and declared that she’d rather be a butcher’s delivery boy, riding her bike through Amsterdam, scaring pedestrians. Joop was the opposite of me. She was direct, outspoken, and pragmatic, whereas I was shy, observing, and a dreamer. She didn’t like to read, I was a bookworm. Her family was wealthy, I come from a wealth of creativity and books and a continuous lack of money. Yet, we both felt somewhat out of place and misunderstood in our own lives, and we both wrote to get over, through, and behind it. Whatever “it” was. And that made her my BFFF (Best Fictional Friend Forever). Literary side-note: Joop also inspired Anne Frank, who addressed many of her diary letters to imaginary friends “Kitty” and “Pop,” characters from the Joop ter Heul books.
In the last ten years, I wrote the occasional personal blurb on a quickly ripped out piece of paper, snotty napkin, or I cramped it on a post-it or Insta-caption, and it’s time to come back to you in full entry effect, dear Diary. It’s time because so much more diary worthy things happened in the last ten years than they did in the first thirty years of my life, and somehow I never wrote them down. To name one: I got married to Markus in Amsterdam with nobody present but us, the registrar (who looked like Judge Judy) and her assistant (who looked like Lurch from the Adams Family), and two witnesses: our chiropractor and a former colleague on a lunch break. The bride wore an LBD.
I also became a mom of Indy, a beautiful baby boy, became a dog mom of Q, an enormous Newfoundland dog, moved to L.A., took comedy writing classes, wrote screenplays, pitched ideas to MTV, Fox Sports, and Mazda executives, wrote and directed online video content and dealt with on-set sushi dramas. I moved to Berlin and became an online fashion columnist for ELLE, I stopped being an online fashion columnist for ELLE, started an E-Commerce company slash design atelier, traveled to NYC to meet with Barney’s, Bergdorf, and Saks Fifth Avenue buyers and talk t-shirts and sweatpants, kept going with the E-Commerce but closed down the design atelier. I moved to Milan followed by a move to Vienna. I traveled to Jakarta for the fist time since birth. My adoption search was broadcasted on the Indonesian news, I watched every Jurassic Park/Transformers/Marvel movie at least five times (I actually think I can recite Transformers, the Last Knight), went into therapy (both my therapists would probably think that me writing a diary is a good idea), I built Lego Hogwarts, improved my Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Seastar impressions, got Indy’s Elf on the Shelf, Andy, some stamps in his passport, and negotiated going rates with Toothiana, Indy’s designated tooth fairy, and… Ow, Markus’s first gig as an actor in Berlin was as a fake priest at a real bikers wedding. The bride and groom had eloped but hadn’t told their parents. To keep the peace, they organized a fake wedding over which my fake priest husband presided. That was before he was headhunted to work for a British fashion brand and gathered a gazillion air miles traveling the world in the name of la mode. That’s how I ended up in an elevator in Dubai with a major bleeding nose and in a small motorboat with three strangers in Venice, Italy. See? There’s so much to tell. And even more to remember.
When you move around a lot, travel even more, you tend to lose things. Like the tail of my wooden horse, Markus’s yellow photo album, books, bags, letters, toys, earrings, and shoes. You also tend to keep a lot of things stored in boxes. Going through them now, I run into keepsakes from the past: a pile of fashion magazines with my writings in it, my designs, patterns, French lace and Italian cashmere samples, a key chain with a photo of Markus and me at Madame Tussauds in London before Indy was born, photos of our late Q as a puppy, and Indy’s first sock. My thumb barely fits in it. It’s the tiny knitted proof that in this crazy parent-hood, time flies at light speed. The chubby feet that fitted this sock just yesterday, turned into the big feet of a relentlessly curious, slightly sarcastic ten year old third culture kid.
I cherish all trinkets of my uprooted and mobile family life the city but in the end, the only things that are truly meaningful are the memories. And memories need to be shared. So here goes writing them down while making new ones as I continue my awfully big adventure. Who knows, I might scare a pedestrian or two along the way. I can see Joop giving me a wink and a thumbs up.
Love, City Mom
Polaroid illustration: ChuChu Briquet for FREDERICK & SOPHIE