I started scrapbooking maybe ten years ago—which suddenly makes me feel a bit impressed with myself, actually. There aren’t a lot of things I can say I’ve been doing for ten years, and ten years is such a nice round number. Lends a sort of established credibility to what is, after all, a hobby and financial sinkhole.

But such a nice sinkhole.

There are lots of reasons to scrap, and I’m sure more than I realize. I do it because it’s an easy kind of art, somewhere between paint-by-numbers and paddling solo out to sea. The infinity of canvas and sketch pad unnerves me. The mess of sculpture deters me (to say nothing of the problem of what to do with 15,000 little clay heads. Because I would have to make busts, I can tell you that right now, and they would all look sort of similar, and it would get to be creepy).

I like my art to be comfortable, something I can slip into and out of without worrying about “losing my edge” or needing to improve. Something so essentially selfish that I don’t have to worry about appealing to public taste and needing to market. That’s probably the real key.

I like the mixing of colors and patterns.

I am seduced by embellishments.

I like to play with ink stamping and collect odd-edged scissors. I like ribbons and mismatched buttons and the occasional sticker, although I am finicky about stickers. They’ve come a long way in the last ten years.

And, of course, I am addicted to flowers. This is slightly painful to admit because there is a secret hierarchy of crazy ladies (the cat lady being most famous), and the scrapbooking one with the flower addiction is, I feel, alarmingly near the top. I never set out to be her, and I don’t think I am yet. Although self-diagnosis is always a bit sketch.

But if I had to pick just one reason, I scrap for the stories.

That’s really what makes it addicting. I like stories. I like memories, and I’m going to be perfectly candid and say that I also like the ability to mold them. Not create false ones or cloud real ones—I haven’t reached Slughorn heights yet (we’re playing through the LEGO Harry Potter game in the evenings, can you tell?). But I like to put things in context, to open them wide enough to make the meaning visible and let the color soak back into the emotions.

That’s what I like.

The baby book has been fun to assemble in little pieces, a picture here and a layout there. I can’t do the title page yet, and I’m almost done with the preparing and the pregnancy snaps and the baby shower and the 9 month breakdown… Tiny woman needs to show up before I can go really crazy with it.

But I was thinking as I was scrapping about all the things that are too grown up for a baby book. Things I want our children to know. Things that don’t fit on cute pages with bright colors. I’ve become more attune to stories about our families since I got pregnant—little snippets and snaps about our relatives. I want our children to have a sense of the past, though I don’t particularly kid myself that they’ll be quite as into the enterprise as I am. Most people aren’t terribly enthralled to discover that their great-grand might (or might not) have been kicked out of Canada.

When we took Carl’s mom out for her birthday a few weeks ago, she started telling us all about the family history. I wish I’d had a tape recorder. The dramatis personae are always interesting, but so is the direct, unapologetic spiritualism that runs through everything. We don’t have anything quite like that in my WASPy family. We are sadly lacking in dreams and portents of death (surprisingly accurate, by the way).

But the story that will stick with me was about her grandfather. This was in Mexico years and years ago, when her grandfather was a boy of six or seven. (This is also the Yaqui side of the family, by the way, Native Americans settled mostly in the Sonora area). His family went to a festival one day, a huge gathering, where he accidentally got separated and lost.

He never found his family again.

He was eventually adopted by another Yaqui family who found him wandering at the festival and tried unsuccessfully to locate his family. Over the years, he became part of their family and ended up taking their last name—Carl’s mother’s last name now. She said she’s been trying to find records of her grandfather’s biological family, but no luck so far.

The past is a strange world.

I don’t know what that story means, but it’s heartbreaking to me—heartbreaking from a human standpoint and fascinating from a literary one. I feel as though it means something, one more piece of the hidden history that exists in Carl and is now a part—an infinitesimal part, but a part nonetheless—of our baby.

I like knowing those things.

And I know I will like telling her.



5 thoughts on “Storytelling

  1. This is so sad! Heartbreaking when you think about it, but what a great story for a book!
    (I’m sort of thinking your baby will come on the 29th 🙂 We are thinking of you every day, now that we are enjoying Amelie! )

  2. I love your stories, too, but it’s hard to imagine the sadness in a little boy who was suddenly and forever separated from his family of origin.

  3. I admire your dedication to the scrap. I have given up on keeping photo books without actual film to print. Now we just make digital books, but the scrap is better. Very inspiring!

  4. Your scrapbooks are so fabulous. I tried scrapbooking just long enough to be able to tell when other people have way more talent at it than I do.

    That story is tragic and horrifying and, like you said, heartbreaking. Wow. You and I share a lot of the same WASPiness, but Gene’s family is Armenian. The Armenians mostly came here to flee genocide, so there’s definitely an undercurrent of hard and sad and wild in a lot of our family reunion stories, too.

  5. WASP is an allusion. You have cool stories. I’ve been in your family closet. 😛 And Carl’s mom’s stories sound like solid gold. What terrific adventure! I mean, I realize losing your family forever sound horrible but its also exciting to hear that he survived, that he was taken in and that he has somewhere out there a whole other family story. Cool, cool stuff. I wish you’d had a tape recorder too. I love story. Someday I’m going to paint a family tree on the wall in my house.

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