Life – especially when creatively documented – Is Good

Until a recent Sunday afternoon, my idea of preserving and documenting our family history involved barely lifting the lid of a Rubbermaid container, stuffing memorabilia into it, and quickly pushing it back onto a shelf in the basement.  This approach ensured that I could quickly forget how overstuffed, under-organized and ineffective this method was.

For a number of reasons – among them the fact that, when placed atop the coffee table for casual perusal, this bin may not enhance the décor in our family room – I was realizing the best solution to manage our overflowing container would be to create a family scrap book.

Except for the scribbled words, “kids’ keepers,” the outside of the bin is entirely nondescript,  but its contents, once considered merely semi-precious nuggets, are now emerging, for scrapbooking purposes, as absolute gold.  I was thrilled to uncover forgotten items like a piece of fabric from curtains my mom made for my son’s room…this little gem provides memories of a kid’s first room, AND a sample of a grandparent’s handiwork.

It appeared that my hoarding tendencies were actually paying off.  Apparently, the desire to scrapbook (Is that really a verb?)  had been dormant in the back of my mind, waiting to spring forth and create beautifully embellished pages with snippets that accentuate the colours of my children’s eyes.  OK…maybe not quite.  I’m not artistic, but I am smart enough to enlist the help of my 11-year-old daughter whose involvement will ensure that the calibre of aesthetic creativity increases.  Significantly.

Thinking that we would just spend an hour or so in the initial planning stages, I decided not to bring the entire bin up from the basement. I ran up and down the stairs, each time producing, to my daughter’s delight, more bits and pieces from my two kids’ babyhood and beyond. But her delight soon changed to bemusement and then, outright fear.  My demeanour had undergone a major shift; I was no longer offering jovial explanations of items, but was obsessively gathering, sorting and muttering organizational strategies under my breath.

My neurosis, as it always does in situations like this, began to surface.  What’s the best possible way to organize all of this?  By year?  By child?  Oh my goodness, could it actually be by activity?  I was tormented by countless questions, because – and this something that my husband is always quick to point out about me – nothing is ever simple.

The family room looked like a scrapbooking store…if it happened to be located in the Disaster District.

I suppose though, if a store had a table scattered with greeting cards and newspaper clippings, and a floor covered with piles of loose photos and albums, ultrasound pictures, tiny first bathing suits, and various other items reminiscent of the lives of two children, then yes, it looked quite like a scrapbooking store.  But I suspect that a store would have some semblance of order…which although my goal, was so very far from my reality.

And eventually, reality interfered.  My husband was otherwise occupied (taxes, he said, but I know he was just avoiding me…imagine!) and somebody in the family with a drivers’ licence had to get groceries.  My obsession loosened its grip as I realized that feeding my family in the near future was more important than documenting our past.

It has become obvious that creating scrapbooks, 14 and 11 years later, isn’t easy…or particularly smart.  But luckily (and astonishingly), we produced a craft-happy child who recognizes her mother’s shortcomings, and is also old enough to pick up the slack.

originally published in the Waterloo Region Record