It’s funny how one decision or experience can lead you somewhere you didn’t intend to go.
Last week, I was in Target and the Halloween decorations made me cry. Seriously: I was crying (albeit silently) in Target. Over Halloween decorations. The skeletons and pumpkins and black, glittery skulls were like physical representations of how quickly time goes, how fleeting this life is. All of my Halloweens with little kids are gone. I don’t even know what this year’s Halloween will look like. And while I want to try to embrace right now and find the joy in what is here, I can’t help it: I loved my days of having little kids at Halloween and I am sad they are gone.
So I decided, right then and there while I was standing in the Halloween aisle in Target, to make a Halloween scrapbook album. Nothing complicated: One group photo from each year since Haley was a baby, with a few list-style notes and the year. I started working on it the next day. Gathering pictures from 2003 and onward was fairly easy, as my digital pictures are pretty well organized (thanks to a husband who likes things neat and tidy on the computer!).
To get the photos from 1995-2002, however, I had to dig into my negatives. They are also well organized, but you know how sometimes a task that should take about 20 minutes ends up taking all afternoon because you get sidetracked? Yep—that happened to me as I flipped through the negatives. I found myself ooooohing over pictures I’d forgotten, and then I had to delve into my older scrapbooks to remind myself how (or if) I’d scrapbooked them. And then I just spent the rest of the afternoon looking at layouts. Reading the journaling, studying pictures, remembering experiences. Laughing at stories I’d entirely forgotten, or sniffing at some tender moments that the layouts made clearer for me.
When the kids came home from school that day, I was surrounded by photo albums, scrapbooks, negatives, and not a few crumpled Kleenex.
My heart was full. And soothed.
Later that night, lying in bed while waiting to fall asleep, I found myself thinking about how happy my scrapbooks make me. It makes me happy to be in the process of making a layout. And it makes me happy to revisit the memories. I always love my kids and am aware of my gratitude at being their mom. But looking through our photos and reading about our experiences reminded me of just how…layered, I guess, life is. We have had all of these years together, loving each other, disappointing each other, getting frustrated, having fun. Doing things together, big experiences like Disneyland vacations, and also small moments like chocolate chip cookie baking and skinned-knee bandaging. All of it, the good, the painful, the sweet, the difficult: it all works together to form our lives and our relationships.
It isn’t only about right now. Memory matters too.
And I am so grateful I have all of those stories down in words. I’m grateful I can revisit them. I’m grateful I can leave my own memories here, on paper, in case someone wants them when I’m gone.
As much as I love & adore & am obsessed with scrapbooking, I’m keenly aware of how other people think of it. To some people, it’s “cute,” with all of the negative connotations that word suggests. To some people it’s a waste of time and/or money. To others it’s just baffling.
Amy’s weird little hobby.
Even though I think about scrapbooking a lot, and I spend a lot of time scrapbooking, I don’t talk about it much to people who aren’t scrapbookers. Even on social media, where I follow a lot of other scrapbookers, I almost never post about scrapbooking. (Especially on Facebook. For some reason it’s easier on Instagram.) It’s almost like it’s a thing that causes shame—my dirty little secret, as I’ve written before.
So there I was, curled up in bed in the dark, listening to my husband snore and thinking about how much I love my hobby. How much happiness it brings me. And how much I want to share that happiness with the people in my life who don’t scrapbook—and how, right there, I bump into resistance. Into embarrassment.
And I decided: forget that. (Actually, I used more colorful language in my head!)
Scrapbooking is cool. Sure, it can be kitschy and more than a little bit twee. But it’s also just cool. Patterns and colors and textures. Fonts and typesetting. Design elements. Large textual treatments and tiny little details. It’s artsy and beautiful and important.
And all of those people—friends and family members and coworkers and social-media strangers—who think my hobby is silly?
I decided I don’t care.
It brings me happiness. It brings me a sense of peace. It scratches my creative need. It gives me a space for writing our stories. It reminds me that my life has been full of meaningful experiences. It reminds me, over and over, of how much I love this family and this life I have been given.
Go ahead. You can think I’m silly. But while you’re thinking that, I’m feeling a little bit sad for you. Because you don’t get to revisit memory in these many different ways. You don’t get to feel this particular sort of happiness that scrapbooking makes me feel.
And you have no justification for owning twelve exacto knives.
And that, sweet friends, is how I went from weeping in Target over a plastic cat skeleton to rejoicing in my hobby of choice.
You just never know where life is headed!