A Severe Case of Scrapbooking


“Wait! Don’t throw that straw away!”

My husband froze halfway through the motion of tilting the remnants of our Taco Bell meal into El Trash Can. “What? Why not?”

“Because! I need it for my scrapbook! Didn’t you see Caleb drink through it? That was his Very First Time Drinking Through a Straw! I have to make a page about that!”

I took a deep breath to recover from all the exclamation points and lapsed into silence as I started composing the journaling for the soon-to-be page in my head. Within four seconds, I had a title: “That’s the First Straw!” (Get it? Like the proverbial last straw? Clever, huh?) Within ten seconds, I had mentally skimmed through my collection of fine patterned papers and chosen several that would perfectly compliment the blue and yellow tones of Caleb’s outfit. As I rode home in the passenger seat, the sticky straw clutched proudly in my hand, I blissfully constructed the layout in my mind, considering various embellishments like a shopaholic scrutinizing accessories for her latest ensemble.

I have…a disease.

That’s the only explanation possible for the progression of what has become, in essence, an obsessive need to commemorate my children’s every last toothy grin, childish scribble, or trip to the park, presumably to be enjoyed by generation upon generation of future family members.

It seemed harmless enough in the beginning. Angie, Paul’s sister, made a gift scrapbook about our nephew Jackson’s first Christmas. As we all gathered around to ooh and aah over the pages, a tiny seed burst into life in my mind: “I think I could do that.” We had just brought home our first child, and finances were tight, but I convinced Paul that preserving these precious and fleeting family memories were worth the cost of a little paper and glue. I started out with one pair of scissors, two glue sticks, and a package of solid colored cardstock. Scrapbooking as a hobby was just taking off, so the selection was small, but I was satisfied. (*historical note* Patient zero of the scrapbooking bug, it is believed, escaped from a holding facility somewhere in Utah–but from there the infection spread rapidly across the country, giving rise to the appearance of the LSS, or Local Scrapbooking Stores, in an effort to meet increasing demands for paper with teddy bears patterns, laser diecuts of palm trees, and stickers bearing the state motto of Vermont. These stores can be identified by their cutesy, rhyming, or pun-based names, like “Oh, Scrap!” and “The Crop Stop.”)

My first hint that I might be losing control of my “hobby” came in Katie’s third year, when I walked into the living room to catch her in the act of scribbling on the coffee table with a jumbo purple crayon. Instead of reprimanding her and having her help me clean up the mess, I posed her for a photo in front of the desecrated table with the purple crayon held aloft in her grubby little fist like a trophy bass. “Smile, Katie!” *click* “Okay, good one. Now look very scared, like you’re in trouble.” *click* “Nice job sweetie! Good pictures! Now, never do that again, okay? It was very naughty and I’m terribly upset. Oh, hey! Let’s get one that looks candid–pretend to color it some more…yes, like that!” *click*

I know I probably screwed up my daughter’s sense of justice for life, but, in my defense, that page turned out really cute.

Soon, I was showing other symptoms. My paper and glue wasn’t enough anymore; I developed insatiable cravings for vellum stickers, ribbon, chalk, metal charms and decorated slide mounts–anything that would give my pages that elusive je ne sais quoi (that’s French for “too much stuff.”) Once, I got so carried away with embellishing my page that I forgot to put any actual photos on it. The groovy new supplies accumulated at an alarming rate. Before long, I needed a place to store them all, so I bought a scrap tote. A few months down the road, I bought another one. And a pen caddy. And a sticker binder. And not one, not two, but three paper takers. My supply addiction was getting so out of hand that I would show up to a 12-hour crop (that’s when a bunch of scrap-infected people wearing tiaras and t-shirts bearing messages like “Scrappers Do It For Posterity” get together to work on their scrapbooks) and even the other scrapbookers would make fun of me.

And, of course, I infected others. My friends Tracy and Regina were the first to fall prey to the siren song of memory preservation. Then my sister-in-law, Julie. We spent hours on Instant Messenger, sharing ideas and linking to scrapbooking websites. Whenever we got together, out came the whole scrap kit-and-caboodle; husbands, children, and pets fled in fear of being accidentally impaled on a pair of patterned scissors.

After a while, I was no longer choosing paper to match the colors in my photos. I was staging photos and even planning whole events to match the paper and embellishments I’d already bought! Paul wasn’t allowed to dress the kids for an outing to the pumpkin patch without checking with me to see if their clothes would clash with the adorable pumpkin-shaped title tag I’d found. I never left the house without my camera–heaven forbid I would miss some Once-In-A-Lifetime Cute Moment and be unable to properly scrapbook it for future generations to enjoy! I was officially, and in all ways, completely out of control.

As with all addicts, the day of reckoning finally came. When the eye doctor pointed out that my kids were suffering from flash burn, I made a vow to cut back on the “photo opportunities.” Paul confiscated my Scrapbook Paradise frequent buyer punch card and “scrapbooking” became a line item in our strict family budget. I cut back my scrapbooking magazine subscriptions to one, and I usually only take a single scrap tote to crops now.

I do relapse now and again, though. Just a couple of weeks ago, I went on a bender. The stickers flew, the journaling spilled across the paper like wine, and a dozen new pages blinked into existence. My daughter’s first fishing trip with Grandpa, my son’s attachment to his best buddy Tigger, my pregnant belly–thanks to scrapbooking, these memories are no longer locked up in my head or some overstuffed shoebox full of photos, to be lost when life or the power of speech fails me. They are free–free to be shared and to be cherished for a season as evidence that sometimes it is the smallest moments in life that make the greatest treasures.

You know, I can think of worse things.

4 responses »

  1. You’re blogging! Oh, the internet thanks you! I’m so excited and have sorely missed reading your writing over the past 10+ years or so. (Ten years!!) I just spent the last half hour catching up on all your posts, giggling where appropriate, mulling where necessary and remembering just how good you are. Truly, you’ve got a gift, sister. I’m linking to you now and will be coming back faithfully.

  2. Oh, how wonderful! Most of what you said in your comment is exactly what I was thinking about your writing! A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out the inbox of an old email address we don’t use very much anymore, and I found your message saying you’d started a blog! I have been lurking for quite a while now, just reading your archives and soaking up the Jillness. I can’t wait to read more!

  3. Well, I hate to say it, but I wish I had your sickness – at least a little bit! I’d love to sit & scrapbook. I even bought a $200 tote with every supply one might need to ‘get started’, including some cut-outs, paper, pens, markers, stickers, the works! I was so excited when I got home that I vowed I’d get started right away. After all, I was a mommy of one at the time, so I had all the time in the world to scrapbook. But, alas, the excitement died the minute I went to bed. I finally gave up on the idea and gave the $200 to my youngest sister – who has since admited to somehow losing the stupid thing. Anyway, all of my pics are digital, so about 2 or 3 times a year, I find myself sifting through hundreds of photos and burning them to a CD to be printed in multiples and placed into specific photo albums. I am proud to say that I do keep them chronological and that I have carefully dated and noted the event on the back of each. Maybe one day, when I no longer have kids at home all day long, I’ll buy another tote & try again! Sigh 😦

  4. I must say, the way you keep your photos organized and labeled in albums is only the merest step away from scrapbooking, and accomplishes the same important purpose–to preserve your family memories for the enjoyment of your family!

    I, too, use a digital camera; I love it! Instead of paying seven bucks per roll to print 18 blah pictures and six good ones that I will use in my scrapbook, I keep them organized on my hard drive, burn them to CD, and only print the ones I truly love for inclusion in my scrapbook. I upload them to snapfish.com, where 4×6 prints cost only 12 cents apiece and I can even enlarge ones I think are really good or print copies for loved ones. Plus, I take a lot more pictures, since I no longer live in fear of using up expensive film too quickly! As you can tell, I am a convert in a BIG way!

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