WRITING in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing, and I have an even greater need to get all kinds of things off my chest.
‘Paper has more patience than people. I thought of this saying on one of those days when I was feeling a little depressed and was sitting at home with my chin in my hands, bored and listless, wondering whether to stay in or go out. I finally stayed where I was, brooding: Yes, paper does have more patience, and since I’m not planning to let anyone else read this stiff-backed notebook grandly referred to as a ‘diary’, unless I should ever find a real friend, it probably won’t make a bit of difference.
Now I’m back to the point that prompted me
to keep a diary in the first place: I don’t have a
Let me put it more clearly, since no one will believe that a thirteen-year-old girl is completely alone in the world. And I’m not. I have loving parents and a sixteen-year-old sister, and there are about thirty people I can call friends. I have a family, loving aunts and a good home. No, on the surface I seem to have everything, except my one true friend. All I think about when I’m with friends is having a good time. I can’t bring myself to talk about anything but ordinary everyday things. We don’t seem to be able to get any closer, and that’s the problem. May be it’s my fault that we don’t confide in each other. In any case, that’s just how things are, and unfortunately they’re not liable to change. This is why I’ve started the diary.
To enhance the image of this long-awaited friend in my imagination, I don’t want to jot down the facts in this diary the way most people would do, but I want the diary to be my friend, and I’m going to call this friend ‘Kitty’.
Since no one would understand a word of my stories to Kitty if I were to plunge right in, I’d better provide a brief sketch of my life, much as I dislike doing so.
My father, the most adorable father I’ve ever seen, didn’t marry my mother until he was thirty-six and
she was twenty-five. My sister, Margot, was born
in Frankfurt in Germany in 1926. I was born on 12 June 1929. I lived in Frankfurt until I was four. My father emigrated to Holland in 1933. My mother, Edith Hollander Frank, went with him to Holland in September, while Margot and I were sent to Aachen to stay with our grandmother. Margot went to Holland in December, and I followed in February, when I was plunked down on the table as a birthday present for Margot.
I started right away at the Montessori nursery school. I stayed there until I was six, at which time I started in the first form. In the sixth form my teacher was Mrs Kuperus, the headmistress. At the end of the year we were both in tears as we said a heartbreaking farewell.
In the summer of 1941 Grandma fell ill and had to have an operation, so my birthday passed with little celebration.
Grandma died in January 1942. No one knows how often I think of her and still love her. This birthday celebration in 1942 was intended to make up for the other, and Grandma’s candle was lit along with the rest.
The four of us are still doing well, and that brings me to the present date of 20 June 1942, and the solemn dedication of my diary.
Saturday, 20 June 1942
Our entire class is quaking in its boots. The reason, of course, is the forthcoming meeting in which the teachers decide who’ll move up to the next form and who’ll be kept back. Half the class is making bets. G.N. and I laugh ourselves silly at the two boys behind us, C.N. and Jacques, who have staked their entire holiday savings on their bet. From morning to night, it’s “You’re going to pass”, “No, I’m not”, “Yes, you are”, “No, I’m not”. Even G.’s pleading glances and my angry outbursts can’t calm them down. If you ask me, there are so many
dummies that about a quarter of the class should be kept back, but teachers are the most unpredictable creatures on earth.
I’m not so worried about my girlfriends and myself. We’ll make it. The only subject I’m not sure about is maths. Anyway, all we can do is wait. Until then, we keep telling each other not to lose heart. I get along pretty well with all my teachers. There are nine of them, seven men and two women. Mr. Keesing, the old fogey who teaches maths, was annoyed with me for ages because I talked so much. After several warnings, he assigned me extra homework. An essay on the subject, ‘A Chatterbox’. A chatterbox what can you write about that? I’d worry about that later, I decided. I jotted down the title in my notebook, tucked it in my bag and tried to keep quiet.
That evening, after I’d finished the rest of my homework, the note about the essay caught my eye. I began thinking about the subject while chewing the tip of my fountain pen. Anyone could ramble on and leave big spaces between the words, but the trick was to come up with convincing arguments to prove the necessity of talking. I thought and thought, and suddenly I had an idea. I wrote the three pages Mr Keesing had assigned me and was satisfied. I argued that talking is a student’s trait and that I would do my best to keep it under control, but that I would never be able to cure myself of the habit since my mother talked as much as I did if not more, and that there’s not much you can do about inherited traits.
Mr Keesing had a good laugh at my arguments, but when I proceeded to talk my way through the next lesson, he assigned me a second essay. This time it was supposed to be on ‘An Incorrigible Chatterbox’. I handed it in, and Mr Keesing had nothing to complain about for two whole lessons. However, during the third lesson he’d finally had enough. “Anne Frank, as punishment for talking in class, write an essay entitled Quack, Quack,
Quack, Said Mistress Chatterbox’.”
The class roared. I had to laugh too, though I’d nearly exhausted my ingenuity on the topic of chatterboxes. It was time to come up with something else, something original. My friend, Sanne, who’s good at poetry, offered to help me write the essay from beginning to end in verse and I jumped for joy. Mr Keesing was trying to play a joke on me with this ridiculous subject, but I’d make sure the joke was on him.
I finished my poem, and it was beautiful! It was about a mother duck and a father swan with three baby ducklings who were bitten to death by the father because they quacked too much. Luckily, Mr Keesing took the joke the right way. He read the poem to the class, adding his own comments, and to several other classes as well. Since then I’ve been allowed to talk and haven’t been assigned any extra homework. On the contrary, Mr Keesing’s always making jokes these days.
[Extracted from The Diary of a Young Girl,
with slight adaptation]