I’m just going to go ahead and say it: re-reading these journals is going to be a part of my life for the rest of my life. I cannot tell you how much I’ve enjoyed picking them up again. Part of it is the living I’ve done since my first time through — I’m a bonafide author now, I’m no longer the mother of babies but two growing boys, I’ve been a pastor’s wife in four different churches. In other words, I’ve grown since my first Maud encounter, and I’ve been able to meet her at a different place this time through.
So much of this volume revolves around relationships — good ones, renewed ones, eroding ones, ones that should have been set aside.
Chester and Stuart
Though Maud has hinted at disappointment in Chester before, this is the first volume where she airs her worries and frustrations with both her boys. Chester fails his first year in college, has two bad working experiences (first with a summer mining job and later in a law office), and secretly marries a hometown girl. Further complicating things, Chester and his wife, Louella, don’t tell Maud and her husband, Ewan, of the marriage until Louella discovers she’s pregnant (and to complicate things even further, the young MacDonalds* tell their parents they’d married a full year before. I assume this is to claim the baby is legitimate).
Stuart’s problems are smaller in comparison (failing an exam, making friends his mother isn’t comfortable with), though they’re still enough to distress Maud.
It was surprising that both boys got involved with gambling their first year in school and both were able to successfully keep this from their mother. Reading that Chester had $28 stolen and Stuart lost his overcoat made me wonder: were these things true or coverups from gambling losses?
Oh, Ewan. I really feel for you. And Maud, who had to step in and try to keep the status quo when his mental illness flared. Outside of her life-long friend, Nora, Maud never had anyone she trusted with Ewan’s true illness. Not even his current doctor. So when he was unable to preach and spent time in a sanatorium, he was simply resting his “nerves.” All those scenes where Maud is hosting the pulpit supply pastor for Sunday dinner, holding a meeting in her parlor, or entertaining houseguests, we know that in the background Ewan is tucked away, fighting his demons, while Maud grits her teeth, hoping no one will hear.
Isobel, an obsessed fan, declares her love, calls, writes, and begs for visits with Maud. I have to confess having a hard time understanding why Maud let this relationship continue. I wish Maud could have comfortably told her no — just as I wish she could have said no to half of her church obligations or the friends, family and acquaintances who asked for money. Imagine if she let herself sleep-in every once in a while, as a taste of the month in bed she always longed for! I can’t help but think she would have been a little happier if she stepped away from some of the tasks and social niceties she felt she must hold to.
Journaling In General
It is fascinating to me that Maud was so distraught by life’s circumstances that she didn’t journal for three years…but kept detailed records of those days in a notebook, which she later transcribed into her journal. I can only guess she was waiting for a change in events, the sort that would nullify the negative ones in the notebooks. When no change came, she finally decided to “write up” the missing years.
Maud journaled as a storyteller. As a reader, I’m curious about her recording of dreams she felt pertained to good or bad events in her life. Did she shape what dreams she included, keeping record in these later years of only dreams that lined up with her joys and dreads?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Volume IV. Remember to come back in October, when we’ll finish our readings with Volume V.
*MacDonald is LMM’s married name