When I finish a scrapbook layout, I don’t put it in an album right away. That’s because I sort of have a THING about my layouts going into albums in chronological order. (Even though I don’t scrapbook in chronological order. I scrapbook in "inspiration" order, I guess...whatever sounds inspiring to work on is what I work on.) I keep two drawers for finished layouts and once they’re full, I put everything in order and then into albums.
This isn’t always as easy as that sounds, though, because I use post-bound albums. Putting layouts into albums in order requires me to disassemble and then reassemble the albums, and it’s a little bit like the pin-and-baste step of making a quilt: not exactly my favorite. Usually I get a few out of order, or I get everything screwed back together and then realize that I missed the posts with a few sheet protectors, and then I have to unscrew and make it right.
But the real reason my two drawers of finished layouts are crammed full isn’t the aggravation of post-bound albums. (Which, despite the aggravation, are still my favorite kind.) I haven’t done it because I need to reorganize the toy shelves. And of course, that hardly makes sense, as the book shelf I keep my scrapbooks on is on the extreme opposite corner of my house to where the toy shelves are. But once I do the toy shelves I’m going to use the free space for some books, and then I can move some other books off of the scrapbook-room shelves and then I’ll have more room for actual scrapbooks.
But I can’t bring myself to reorganize the toy shelves.
Because it’s not really a reorganization I need to do. It’s a deep cleaning and a de-cluttering. It’s a de-toying project and one I don’t really have the heart for. Every time I start I get completely overwhelmed. I know I should get rid of quite a bit of the stuff that’s on the toy shelves. Kaleb doesn’t play with all of it anymore, and Jake and Nathan aren’t going to take up playing with their old toys again anytime soon. Haley definitely isn’t. I know I don’t want to be the crazy hoarding lady who keeps everything in a desperate attempt to cling to the past.
But I just can’t stand getting rid of it.
Here’s the thought process I have when I look at the toy room shelves:
Kaleb hasn’t ever really loved playing with the dinosaurs. I should get rid of most of them and just keep a few.
Yes, but remember how happy the dinosaurs made Jake? That Christmas morning when he opened up the wrapping and saw his very own boxful of dinosaurs, and he was still just two years old but if you asked him what he wanted to be he’d say "a paleontologist" without any sort of lisp? Or how he’d play for hours with them? And knew all the names, which he could also say without a lisp? If you give them all away won’t you forget all of that?
And if you forget it all then it will be like it never happened and you never had those moments with Jake. It will be like saying they meant nothing to you. It will be like saying you don’t want to remember.
And of course you can’t get rid of his dinosaurs, even if Kaleb doesn’t play with them. Because one day Jake will have a son, and he’ll come to your house, and you’ll pull out this big bucket of dinosaurs and say "your dad used to play with these!" and your grandson will be so happy to play with his dad’s childhood dinosaurs that he’ll love coming to Grandma’s house more than anything else he’s ever loved before.
(Repeat in an endless loop with only the type of toys and the child in question changing.)
So then I stop trying to work my way through that bucket of toys. I go to wherever that kid is and I give him or her a hug and I try to talk myself off the ledge. I remind myself that I won’t forget because I’ve taken pictures and kept journals and made scrapbook layouts. I tell myself that my dad's Alzheimer’s isn’t a family curse and that I might just get to live my entire life and not forget it all in the end. I talk myself through the "toys aren’t memories, memories are memories" schpiel I’ve developed. I point out that probably my grandkids won’t be quite so enamored of their parents’ toys as I imagine. And I feel that miserable sort of guilt because all of this anguish over old toys might come across as me still being unable to let go of my kids as kids. I don’t want them to think that I don’t love them right now just as much as I did back then, because I do. I love seeing the people they’re becoming.
I just don’t want to lose the memories of how they started out.
Inevitably this process draws me back to the scrapbook layouts. A couple of months ago, a friend said something to me about how she’s not caught up with her albums and how she thought I was. Not even close. I have huge gaps and scattered accomplishments. But when I look through an album I’m reminded: some of it is safe. This part right here, the part that’s written down and matched with a photo, won’t be forgotten. Even if I forget, someone else can read it (if they wanted) and then take that forward with them into whatever future they have.
The fear of forgetting drives me to do strange things, like put back onto the shelf the box of dinosaurs no one’s played with for four years. Like spend my time scrapbooking, which for me has always mostly been about the writing anyway. Sometimes I worry that the thing that’s keeping me from writing novels is scrapbooking. No, not even worry: I know it is. It is the safe creative outlet. It is fun and involves color and fonts and pretty things and even though I try to write what is real, I don’t have to push. There’s no creative resistence involved in scrapbooking. It’s just a simple form of happiness.
But it makes me happy for that simple reason: it keeps things. It saves them against plaques and tangles, against old age or apathy or hard drive failure. I come back to it over and over for the same reason I haven’t been able to declutter my toy room shelves since Kendell built them: I don’t want to forget.
I don’t want to forget.
I don’t want to forget.