Sunday, November 20, 2011

Secret Spy Diary, 1975

While tidying up some papers today, I found THIS:

CSIS, look out: it's my SECRET SPY DIARY from 1975! X-rated, apparently.

I was 11 at the time and had just finished reading Harriet the Spy. Utterly enamoured of Harriet and her exciting life in New York City, I spent a lot of time wishing I could find an egg cream in surburban Toronto. (Harriet was a fan of that soda-fountain specialty.) I wanted to be Harriet, and so I decided it was time to start spying.

After my parents split up, I spent a lot of time alone and in my head. An awful lot of crap going on at home that needed tuning out, so it was easy for me to slip into the fantasy life of a girl spy. I even had the dorky glasses! And there was much to watch.

In 1975, my single mother's newly-divorced friend Rachel came to live with us for a while. Rachel both fascinated and repelled me. I thought her beehive hair-do was amazing, but was appalled when she told me to call her by her first name instead of "Mrs." I was a very prim and proper kid in many ways, and I could not wrap my head around calling an adult "Rachel." Consequently, I avoided calling her anything!

When Rachel and her hubby split and she came to bunk with us, her ex kept custody of their son. Rachel was a wild and free swinging-70s single, and my mother was her partner in crime. It's too bad I didn't see fit to write about something more exciting than the contents of her Christmas cards, but for reasons known only to my 11-year-old self, that's what I decided was spy-worthy.

  I'm not sure if the spelling mistakes in the book are all mine or not. I know I had a handle on how to spell "Phyllis," (my mother) but many others didn't...

“March Fourth: Some woman phoned for Rachel. She sounds like a dick. Rachel's x-mas cards: Read: ‘Dear Rachel, How's Everything been? I imagine you have your own place now but since I don't know the adress I'm sending this care of Phyliss. Please drop a line if you get a chance. If your'e down for Christmas drop by for some Christmas cheer. Love Di & Vern.’”

I feel certain I didn't know the deeper anatomical meaning of the word "dick" when I wrote that passage.

THere were also cards from “Lorrie Joanne Gruhl” and the mysterious “Susan”, who apparently was also incapable of spelling my Mum's name correctly.

But even more spellbinding:

“Rachel has lots of fur hats.”

I also took my notebook to school with and kept watch over my classmates...

Scott E. is wierd (sic)”
“David T. smokes”
“What Scott E. thinks of T-Jay M.
is wierd
is a good pal
is way out
is cute”

“There are certain people in the class that I have to watch in the class.

(In the class. Just in case you didn't get that the first two times!)

“What Sonja H. thinks of Keith M.
is sweet
is handsome
is great...

(Who the hell names their kid “T-Jay”?!) super
is stupendous
is sensuous 
is sexy.”

(I believe those last four adjectives were based not on reality but rather on my lifelong love for alliteration.)
“In Sonja's notebook it says ‘I love Keith M.’ Everybody thinks I love Stephen D. Well I don't. I hate his guts. I just like hate his stories and but he is good in plays.

Okay, for starters, that was a bald-faced lie. I was TOTALLY INFATUATED with Stephen D! I just didn't want anyone to know. He acted in school plays while I toiled behind the scenes, painting appliance-boxes to look like caves. I got to do this alone out in the school hallway, because I was a troubled creative brainiac, and the teachers were always looking for ways to keep me busy.
Fortunately, Stephen and I didn't grow up and marry each other. A couple of years ago, one of my oldest friends met up with Stephen at a high school reunion, where, despite being the married father of more than one child, he tried to pick her up!

Truth be told, I didn't have good taste in men until I was 25 and took up with Gordon.

“This movie, “Trilogy of Terror” is gonna be scary. I'm gonna play ‘guess what’”

Yeah, my mother let  11-year-old me watch a horror movie that involved sex, violence, and a woman who slept with her father, killed her mother, and was subsequently infested by a Zuni doll spirit. My Mum always treated me like I was 42.
 More entries from the Secret Spy Diary to follow!

Secret Spy at Busch Gardens, Florida, 1976


  1. Aw, you look so sweet in that photo. And I love the two macaws.

  2. This was such fun to read. I'm sure that part of the reason you love and care for animals so much today somehow, someway, has to do with the fact that Rachel has so many fur hats which deep inside you someplace, even back then you loathed the idea of people wearing animals on their heads or anywhere else.

    Although I enjoyed a peek inside your Secret Spy Diary very much, it did make me feel very old. When you were busy jotting down all your secret notes I had been married for two years and had recently given birth to my first child!!!!

  3. What a wonderful post. I am so glad you kept that book - and rediscovered it.

    I feel very privileged to have had a peek inside it. I love the way that your style of handwriting keeps changing! (I used to do that too) I want to give that young girl a big hug and tell her that everything is going to turn out fine.

    I won't ramble on, but it really is a beautiful post; a small insight into your world all those years ago.

  4. Fascinating stuff...and you totally look like a spy. I'll tell Air Canada to check your bagages thoroughly when you travel.

  5. Haha this is a great post! You do look like a spy in the photo.

    I wonder if you noted down Rachel's fur hats because you had suspicions of her being a Russian spy.

  6. This is sooo cool! Loved it!
    I wish I had my diary from that time. Lord know what my shy teenage self would have been thinking of in 1975!

    Keep 'em coming!

  7. Nice handwriting! What was it about the 70's? I ended up warped, and look at you and your ducks...

  8. Anonymous8:30 pm

    That little book is a treasure. I have an old diary from about the same age and now I want to go find it ...

    Adorable picture, by the way.

  9. Nancy9:10 pm

    I loved Harriet the Spy so much -- and still do! Your notebook is brilliant.

  10. Ahab, I had my moments! :)

    Paula, I think you have a point there about the fur hats. I know I didn't like them!

    Elaine, I will post more. It was fun reading it again after all these years. Thank you for the kind words! My handwriting is now utterly illegible. I'm not sure what happened!

  11. Elisabeth, I wish I hadn't burned my diaries from age 13 and 14!!

  12. Katnip, I know, I know... and it was our parents doing the drugs, not us! ;))

    CogDis, it's so interesting and sometimes poignant to read what we wrote as girls and teens.

    Nancy, thank you!

  13. Oh no, Claude, just what I need, more hassles at the airport! :)

    LBM, entirely possible. She had an air of mystery about her!


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!