Chat About Care-taking: A Walk Down Memory Lane

Reading and writing are my twin passions, but scrapbooking runs a close third.  My latest album inspired gales of laughter when I showed it to my parents.

I’m proud to be the family historian. I enjoyed scrapbooking before it became a fad, but my endeavors were crude and somewhat messy before Creative Memories made “scrapbooking” a household word.  Now every craft store in the world has aisle after aisle of tools and supplies to capture memories and there are numerous sites for creating on-line albums.  Long ago someone came up with the idea of making self-adhesive photo albums.  During that period my mother put together a series of albums to commemorate our family and record her vacations.  In spite of her efforts there were still shoeboxes full of photos tucked away in closets, drawers and cabinets that didn’t make their way into her albums.  Mom threatened to toss these out and even though I had not yet perfected my skills, I was unwilling to let the pictures get away.

Then someone introduced me to Tape Runners and Personal Trimmers and ever since life has been different.  My bookshelf has about 30 photo albums in it and upstairs in a closet I have close to ten albums that hold the greeting cards I cherish almost as much as my photos.  Every Monday night I go to a friend’s house and spend several hours blissfully creating new albums.  My husband fears we’ll soon need to build an addition onto the house for my hobby.

With my love for scrapbooking so firmly established, I am now our family’s official depository of all things photographic.  Not only have I created albums that are the highlight of family get-togethers, but I’m now the immediate recipient of any cache of photos my family members discover.  One of my most recent deliveries came from my mother.  I’d already rescued tons of photographs from her house, but she discovered yet another shoebox of wonders.  Sorting through the box I found all kinds of pictures.  Some were copies of photos I’d already included in other albums.  Some had familiar faces in them, but I couldn’t identify the location.  Some of my favorites were of fingers, pant legs, the insides of purses and other photo mishaps.  The first few times I went through the boxes I was stumped.  How was I going to turn these miscellaneous photos into precious memories?

As I pondered my next scrapbook, I remembered the Becher collages from my college photography coursework.  They made art out of pictures of inane items like water towers and abandoned factories.  The magic of their work was the similarity of variety or the variety of similarity, if you prefer.  So, I looked at my new stack of photos with a fresh eye and saw a new way to sort them.  Rather than trying to assign places and dates to the photos, I would strip them of these labels and assign new kinds of categories to them.

Making this new kind of album freed me completely from my habits of chronology and journaling.  If there were three pages of beach pictures, for instance, I lined the pictures up on the page and stuck them down trying to emphasize their similarities rather than their differences.  I quickly filled up one album in this way and soon completed a second.  I couldn’t wait to show them to my parents.

I explained the process to my parents and let them open the albums.  The results were entertaining.  Usually the viewing of my albums engender compliments about my skills as a scrapbooker.  The page designs and the careful labeling are considered a real talent.  These albums were all about the memories.  My parents exclaimed as they recalled where a photo was taken.  They laughed at the closeup of a thumb print obliterating Don Ho in a  picture from Hawaii.  Soon they were discussing the automobiles parked in front of motel rooms and the idiocies of fashion.

Then Mom pointed to a picture and asked, “Who’s that man standing next to me here at Butchart Gardens.”  “It’s Dad,”  I said. “No, it’s not,” she insisted.  Barely able to hold back my laughter, I suggested, “Well then, I guess you let a complete stranger put his arm around you and have a picture taken.”  Realizing it was Dad, she barked with laughter.

Soon she asked, “Who’s the woman in this picture.”  I said, “That’s you.”  As she had before, she challenged my judgement.  “Yes Mom,” I persisted, “it’s you.”  Almost angry, she said, “I never wore my hair like that.”  Chuckling I replied, “Well, here’s proof that you wore it that way at least once.”  These challenges continued through the whole album.  We were able to stay on speaking terms in spite of the fact that laughter caused great difficulty in our breathing.

The albums are now on my shelf.  I’ve returned to my usual album methodology, keeping to a strict chronological order and carefully including descriptions for every event portrayed.  I know my family appreciates my efforts as family historian, but I doubt they’ll ever be a stroll down memory lane as humorous as this one.

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