Friday, August 12, 2011

Keeping Scraps, Better Known as Scrapbooking

Apparently, scrapbooking has become an extremely popular hobby for many folks. These days, there are whole sections devoted to scrapbooking in craft stores. The binders that you'll find there to hold your mementos look more like photo albums than scrapbooks--at least what we considered scrapbooks back in the days of my youth; and your pages filled with photos, cards, letters, and other precious items can now be slipped into plastic sleeves for protection. There are fancy papers that you can buy to fit your scrapbooks; they look nothing like the simple, utilitarian, tan construction paper pages of yore (like the ones in this oldtimer's high school scrapbooks, above). You can get bows, buttons, stickers, and every imaginable kind of decorative items and whatnot, all specifically made to embellish your scrapbooks. You can get whole packages of themed stickers with matching papers, so that you can make one scrapbook about your beach vacation and another one about your first year of college, and the result will be two color-coordinated, beautifully decorated pieces of art, polished and pretty enough to become coffee table books. It's a good thing scrapbooking hadn't become such a craze yet when I was a girl, or I would have undoubtedly spent a fortune on it. Instead, I just taped the bits and pieces of my life--the precious scraps--onto plain pages and wrote little blurbs next to them with a Bic pen. I didn't produce any works of art, but these scrapbooks are so dear, so heartbreakingly sweet and hilarious at the same time, that they are invaluable to me.

I kept scrapbooks religiously throughout junior high and high school, having decided that it was infintely better than keeping a diary or a journal. As a little girl, for a short time I kept a diary that I still have; there are hardly any entries in it, because really, in third grade, what could I possibly have to say? On January 4, I wrote, "Today is Wednesday. It is the second day back to school. Tomorrow will be the third day back to school since the Christmas vacation. Tomorrow will be Thursday." Scintillating! I also had a brief and disastrous experiment with keeping a diary in 7th grade; what I concluded from this experiment is that I should have locked it if I didn't want anyone to find it and read my deep and important adolescent thoughts. (Especially if I didn't want the very friend who read the blasted thing to find out that I'd been mad at her about something which was by then long forgotten!) I destroyed that ridiculous little book and decided then and there that I would no longer keep anything that wasn't fit for public viewing.

After the diary debacle, I began to assemble scrapbooks filled with movie ticket stubs, restaurant napkins, cards, letters, notes passed to me in school, dried flowers, dried leaves, report cards, programs from plays, coins, gum wrappers, sugar packets from dinners out with my boyfriend/future husband (yes, sugar packets; I have one in one of my scrapbooks that is 37 years old!); you name it, I probably kept it--and all of it had some special meaning to me. I even have a Popsicle stick and its wrapper (with 38-year-old traces of my huband's DNA on it!) that I taped into a scrapbook in 1973; next to it, I wrote, "After school T___ wanted someone to [go to the corner store] and get him an orange Popsicle before [football] practice started. I ran as fast as I could!!" What can I say? I was in love!

When my parents sold our family home and moved into a condo not long after I got married, my mother cleaned out the attic and gave me boxes filled with my childhood things. I only found one scrapbook in there, and it was in dire shape. The tape I'd used had disintegrated and all the scraps were loose. Years later, I decided to reconstruct the whole thing, using the tape stains to fit everything back where it had been. The covers had fallen apart, so I ended up removing the retooled pages and slipping them into the plastic sleeves of a modern-style scrapbook (it's the one that's standing up in the above photo). I must say, one big plus for present-day scrapbookers is that there are acid-free sticky squares and double-sided tapes available, so that you have better options for permanent adhesion than Scotch tape or Elmer's glue. I make a mess when I work with glue, but seeing the condition of my old scrapbooks, I think tape was probably the wrong choice! Anyway, I'd always wondered what had happened to my others, because I knew I had more than one scrapbook; but eventually I forgot all about them. The years went by, and then suddenly last Christmas my mother told me she'd found two more boxes of my things; for the past 30 years, they'd been sitting in a storage unit that had just been cleaned out. So that's where my other high school scrapbooks had been hiding all that time! What fun it was to go through them again--to fix them up, and while doing so, to remember things that I'd almost forgotten.

Maybe it's silly to want to hang onto all of these old bits and scraps of my life; it's not as if I need them to hold onto my memories. I suppose if I didn't end up marrying the boy who takes center stage on most of the pages of my scrapbooks, I might have burned them long ago. But I do love them; and I think in their way, they are more beautiful than the professional-looking, designer-style ones that are popular today. In my eyes they are, anyway.

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