Full Circle

I have been scrapbooking again. It’s a bit of a wagon-worthy confession.

There is a short and shunted period of my personal history when I was a scrapbooker. I scrapbooked. I sold scrapbooks. Mostly, I spent unholy sums of money on gourmet scrapbooks and all manner of scrapbooking paraphernalia. Markers. Stickers. Cut-outs. Paper; O Lord, was there paper. Pages and albums and protectors. Cutters and tapers and punchers and shapers. Stencils. Pencils. Organizational cathedrals to contain my covetousness.

I don’t have a lot to show for those days, save the leftover raw materials, enough to fill a small storefront. It seems I managed to actually put about a year’s photos into those high society strappy albums on my first binge. Run number two, a handful of years later, gained a bit more traction, with still only a scant year finding archival homes between my boards, but that year was fatter, when counting photos like calories.

It was fun while it lasted. But it wasn’t the most fiscally responsible move I’ve ever made.

Recently, there has been some measure of progeny interest in the process of the scrapbook, and said progeny are now come of an age where they are pleasantly helpful in the endeavor.

There have been two or three scrapping revivals through the years, all of them studded with enthusiastic preschool helpers and a decisive lack of space to spread out. If ever you’ve scrapped, you know that it is like quilting. Space is crown, and the king will be complaining of a drafty baldquarters for a long time.

When space is at a premium in your house, scrapbooking suffers. There is a frustration inherent. For three hours will be spent unearthing the armada of equipment and finding one’s place amidst the sea of printed images. Once the sextant has settled and the maps have been marked for the journey, the wind delivers a notorious lag and the sails droop. Three photos are placed atop waiting pristine pages and the baby monitor tells you that your voyage has come to an end.

Optimism causes you to forsake the dinner table in the hopes that tomorrow will bring renewed vigor, but what tomorrow actually brings is sloppy cereal and a swift shushing of the scrapbooking bug.

First there is a little consolidation; an attempt at leading dual-purpose lives. The spread begins to clot into piles. Soon there is another small ceding; the binder of 10,000 stickers is closed and relegated to the nearby floor. Next, after spatters of peanut butter fly and crayola finds its way across acid-free hinged and tempered pages, you become momentarily despondent and summarily recalcitrant in turns. Tears well up all along family lines. And the storefront is swept up, returned to the tidy cubby of space it is allotted for the other 363 days of the year, and the dream fizzles.

Today, bits of summer still winking through the growing insistence of the autumn of ’17, the seas are fairer for the trusty scrapbooking sailor. The children have grown and their assistance doesn’t amount to further money down the drain. And the once-popular pool/ping-pong table no longer sees enough action for me to feel guilty about putting it out of commission for a few months. Also, there are no little fingers flying through like so many tiny helicopters scattering all things light and lofty on their wind. The scrapbooks have emerged once again.

I have been scrapbooking again is a hushed confession because I have spent the better part of these interim decades slowly hoisting my nose at the practice. Repenting of the sums spent. Shaking my frugal noggin at the dollars and the donuts invested in this post modern art form that does nothing more than dress up the family albums with frill and lace.

I was, admittedly, rebelling more against the indulgent practices of framing one photo with stacks of embellishment on each page. Against the puffy stickers and the vintage papers and the rivets and vellums and gilding, and all other crimes against photography. This was not the tradition of the scrapbook that I was brought up in, but I was witness to it one too many times. Against this I railed, and against all photo preservation methods sharing the same zip code I ran. The baby was floating out on the bathwater, thought every once in a while, on a particularly cold day, I would heave her back in and warm her up for a while, just in case I’d made a mistake.

Over these same decades, I couldn’t help but notice that the kids really dig looking through the two scrapbooks on our shelves. Over and over.

From the pages…

There is laughter. An occasional tear, or at least the seeds of one. There is good-old quality time. All of them together, lost in the pages. Reading the derelict script of their mother in her ravings. Studying the finer details of each photo. True enjoyment. Only a couple of years are there, but they are pored over year after year.

And the half dozen cheap, crappy, slip’em in and call’er good, dime store photo albums residing one door over on the very same shelf? The ones I extolled as the pure essence of family photos, the modus unadulteratus? Memories distilled down and raw, unencumbered by colorful accents and cheesy commentary? Homes to five years of memories, the bulk of the baby pictures, and one would assume a veritable cornucopia of stories and feelings and happiness-between-the-covers? They’ve come out once. Not all of them. Only a few. They’re falling apart, for they are cheap. And they are crappy. And our photos deserve better.

So I am back on the bus.

I don’t scrapbook like those crazy ladies with the embossers in their artillery. There are no push-button voice messages or embedded LEDs. No raffia wafting out the top or burnished metalwork framing my corners. I adhere to a strict flat page policy. There is minimal writing, and small space for stickering, but we are working our way through the laser cut, adhesive reserves. The cheesiest are being repurposed as garbage can liners, and the tolerable are doing their best to make our family photos look even better than they already are. The only puffy stickers found in the supply were so old they puffed themselves inside out. Thank heavens.

It should be noted that I’ve found a new supplier for albums at a fraction of the ear-splitting cost I once shelled out. It should also be noted that  I am deriving a certain not-so-secret pleasure in putting Google Photos in its place as an insurance policy rather than the keeper of my memories.

If you need me, I’m at the pool table, bringing those memories back to life. And recovering some long-lost costs.

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