Three kids and six years of fruitless toil later, I finally gave up the dream.  The surrender came slowly.  Every few months, I’d tell myself that I was going to set aside some time and “get back” to scrapbooking (as if I was ever “there” in the first place), and I’d try not to hyperventilate when I thought about how, with the passing of each day, my memory making was falling further and further behind.  That’s the worst thing about the New Expectation of Scrapbooking:  no matter how hard you try to narrate your life, you’re always living more of it, so your narrative is perpetually inadequate.  It’s a lot like earning money and exercising in that way; why can’t we just do it once and be done?  (Lotto/Plastic Surgery/One-Time Scrapbooking?  Those are my three cups of tea.)

 Months turned into years as the blank acid-free paper and unused die cuts aged listlessly on my table.  I’ll get on top of it, I kept telling myself.  This weekend.  Okay, next weekend.  But I will.  My motivation always surged when a newly made, well meaning girlfriend would corner me at church.

“Hey, do you scrabook?”  Bright eyes, big smile.

“Um, yeah…kind of…I mean, I’m going to get back into it.”  Tight, tight smile.

“Oh good!  Then you should come to our “Crop til you Drop” on Friday night!  Bring all your stuff and you can work on it with the rest of our group.”

“Okay, thanks.  Sounds super fun!”  It did not sound fun at all, but I was determined to participate in this new-aged distortion of a Girls Night Out. I’d run home in a panic and start sifting frantically through the computer for our last five years of photos, desperately creating folders that would give them some semblence of chronological order:  Ethan Age 2-4 (459 pictures) Megan Age 2-7 (874 pictures) Rachael Age 2-9 (1, 112 pictures); Family 2004-2011 (3, 476 pictures).

“Sweet!”  I’d say to myself.  “Photos are all organized; now all I have to do is print them out and put them in albums.”  I convinced myself that “putting them into albums” was just a pesky detail.  I mean, everyone knew that organizing your photos was the maddening part; how difficult could it be to print out, crop, mount, paste and caption 5, 921 photos?  Sure, it might take a little time, but hey–was my family important to me or not?  And I was a stay-at-home mom–it’s not like I had anything else to do.


The next step was to put the picture order into Costco, which was a feat unto itself but did allow me the hot dog/soda combo upon pickup and was, therefore, time well spent.  Once home, I’d label each bulging envelope with a sharpie–i.e., ETHAN AGE 2 FOR HIS SCRAPBOOK DO NOT ACCIDENTALLY THROW AWAY!!!  (Accidentally Throwing Things Away is a big problem in our house.  I’ve found that labeling things in all caps with a Sharpie pen has done–well, absolutely nothing to prevent this mishap.  But it allows me, somehow, to yell at the person whose doing it.)  I’d lay out the envelopes carefully, giving each category its own special section of the family room floor.  The “family” category required its own room, however, as the contents filled seventeen separate envelopes, which I naturally took as a sign of my superb mothering.  Who else loved their children seventeen envelopes full of pictures?  Not my own mother, that was for sure; she had stuffed her children’s self-esteem into a careless, crappy sticky yellow album.  My generation of mothers knew what was really important.  First things first, I thought smugly, as I dried out one Sharpie and uncapped another.

With my pictures sorted and labeled, it was now time for a trip to the scrapbook store.  We had a cute one down the road, and I let it work its magic on me:  I walked in with a little trepidation and walked out with a whole new confidence that only cost me one-hundred and nineteen dollars.  Considering the angst I’d felt up to this point, it was a small price to pay.

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Friday night rolled around and, loaded with my pictures and supplies, I arrived at the “crop.”  I said a quick hi to everyone and made my way to a table with plenty of space–my 5, 921 photos would need it.  Because–and I truly believed this, people–I was going to put them all in an album tonight!  I had the photos organized, the supplies purchased, and five allotted hours with no kids whatsoever.  How could I fail?  I’d crank this thing out and be caught up for the next decade, when I’d finally feel free to pay attention to my kids and vote (in both state and federal elections!)

How could I fail?  I’ll tell you how.  Even with the categorized envelopes, even with the purchased supplies, even at my friend’s house, with the good snacks and good company, working on that scrapbook was what it always was for me:  tedious and time-consuming and stressful and boring.  I left that night with some good food in my belly, some good gossip in my brain, and exactly four finished scrapbook pages in my bag.  Four.  That number seemed my destiny.  In all my years of “creating pages,” four was the most I ever did.

And so, one hundred nineteen dollars and five Friday night hours later, I had reduced my pile of photos from 5, 921 to 5, 902.  I went home and neatly stacked the supplies and envelopes into the plastic tub I’d purchased for just this cause.  I cleared a space for it beneath the hanging coats in the front hall closet, where it could voice its importance every time I reached in.  Finish me, it would call through the nylon and wool.  Make me whole…  Odd as it sounds, I was eager for the haunting.  Since time and money had failed me, maybe the Tripping Over The Tub would be the thing that finally worked.

Eight years later, I can tell you that that tub has worked–as a really good boot rest.  The photos within, however, have long since ceased their cries for release.  After years of being ignored, I think they’ve finally resigned their fate to an indifferent warden who’s so busy running her family’s life that she’s failed to document it.  Oh, well.  The kids may grow up without knowing what they looked like as babies, but at least they’ll be able to read this touching blog post that Mom wrote instead.  Worst case scenario, I’ll buy enough sticky yellow photo albums to shelter the 5, 921 (oops, 5, 902!) photos still looking for a home.  I’m sure they–and my conscience–will be grateful.

Like every new mother in the late 1990s, I was, upon executing a healthy vaginal delivery of my firstborn, immediately indoctrinated in the Supernal Importance of Scrapbooking.  This came as something of a revelation for an old school girl like me, born in the ‘70s with a mother who sewed and canned, but rarely took family photos (too expensive!) and certainly never took scissors to paper to canonize them afterward.  A yellowed family photo album, unchronicled and incomplete, housed our family memories back then, and we all thought that was just fine.  Until the ‘90s, when Creative Memories–and every Mormon girl I knew–told me I had to start scrapbooking.

(an aside:  I am a Mormon Girl, and I love being a Mormon Girl, both of which give me a delicious license to make fun.)

I wish I could draw you a plot graph, my friends, to illustrate how sharply, as the New Scrapbooking Era rose, my Life Satisfaction Level dropped.  I was exhausted with a new baby, and was now informed that having her birth certificate and some newborn snapshots in a black photo album on the coffee table wasn’t nearly enough.  No, I was told by the Mormon Girls, the pictures needed to be trimmed, clipped, mounted and stacked on three different layers of three different papers (a patterned, a solid, and a thin black cardstock behind it all to achieve, you know, that finished look.)  In addition, I learned to fear those sticky, self-adhesive albums that Our Misguided Mothers Had Used for the evil creatures they were:  destroyers–no, blasphemers!–of our precious, precious pictures and, by extension, our precious, precious memories. (Pictures and memories had become interchangeable terms, and precious preceded absolutelybloody everything.  I’m convinced that Gollum’s real demise began when, long before finding the ring, he’d signed on as a Creative Memories consultant.)



Apparently, my actual memory was no longer a sufficient place to store–well–memories (though I’d always naively assumed otherwise.)  Instead,

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this task would now be turned over to The All Seeing, All Knowing Scrapbook, which would only cost me fifty, or a hundred, or maybe three hundred dollars, depending on how “creative” I was (how much pricey paper I went through) and, of course, how “committed” I was to preserving my family’s (precious!) heritage.  Lacking any visual creativity (I thought writing my captions in fuschia ink was branching out) I decided to compensate by being truly-madly-deeply committed.  It was Nature vs. Nurture:  what I lacked in talent, I’d make up for in tenacity.  On some repressed and twisted level, I believed that my commitment to scrapbooking would be my Life’s Apology for having never learned to sew.*  I’d show ‘em all.

And so, like every other young mother/MG in the ‘90s, I tried–and I tried hard.  I bought expensive paper and expensive-r albums and took as many lousy photos as my pre-digital camera would allow.  (Turns out I didn’t know how to take good pictures, either.)  I would spread everything out on my kitchen table for days at a time, earnestly cutting, pasting (with acid free glue!), mounting, and memorializing each piece of my family’s life.  Artistically disinclined as I was, my best efforts produced albums that were tacky and cheesy but hey–at least they were done.  I had done it; I was scrapbooking!  I was a “cropper!”  And most importantly:  I was keeping up!  A few trips to Michael’s and I was on the path to becoming just a bit more like my sisters, whose golden touch with All Things Tactile had always inspired a little envy on my part.  I had, it would seem, arrived.

There was just one problem with my new Love of Scrapbooking, and that was that I hated it.  I loathed–and I mean loathed–every minute that I spent doing it.  I knew that many, in fact, most, young mother/MGs/even non-MGs enjoyed the artistic and sentimental process of creating family albums (which, all jokes aside, I do think is a worthwhile skill), but for me it was tedious, time-consuming, messy, and felt like anything but a “creative outlet.”  (Shouldn’t that term imply a little fun?)  For this MG, trying to scrapbook was like trying to read the Old Testament: admirable but painful, with no hope of finishing.  Ever.

Which brings us to Part Two.  For next time.  (I had intended to explore this topic with only one post, but soon realized I was too emotionally invested to limit my word count for the sake of readability.  Please forgive me, and please stay with me–MGs and non-MGs alike.  We’re all in this together now.)

*or can.  or quilt.  or do geneology.  or toll paint.  or garden.  or cross-stitch.  or crochet.  or do macrame.  (Is that it?  Yes, I think macrame is it.)

**I forgot to add Reading the Old Testament to the list of things I’m not good at.  I guess macrame wasn’t It after all.