Scraps of memories – My Messy Beautiful
Before I became a mama, I used to scrapbook a lot. My friend Jana and I would spend hours rummaging through old photos, poring over paper designs, contemplating scissor patterns and discussing sticker options. We sifted through ticket stubs, programs, brochures and whatever other scraps we’d saved from important events over the years.
Our messy scrap piles contained countless memories from weddings, vacations, concerts, birthday parties, baby showers and first days of new jobs.
Jana and I have known each other since kindergarten, so many of our memories overlap. There were times when we would swap pictures, or the same photos would end up in both of our scrapbooks. Now that I think back, the times we spent making scrapbooks filled with memories provide their own memories – listening to our favorite musicals, half-watching movies, drinking coffee and eating food one of our husbands made for us. It all sounds perfectly lovely, doesn’t it?
That’s because I failed to mention the 387 times I lost the glue stick I JUST HAD IN MY HAND THREE SECONDS AGO. Or the 43 minutes I spent looking for that one perfect picture I JUST SAW TWO DAYS AGO WHEN THE DOG ALMOST ATE IT OFF THE FLOOR. Or the 52,000 seconds it took to find the fuchsia-colored pen.
It seemed like every supply I needed was always covered up by scraps. No matter how hard I tried to be organized, scrapbooking was messy.
After Elliot was born in 2007, the scrapbooking dwindled. Jana and I were lucky to get together every couple months or so. She moved about an hour away the next year and had her first baby two years later. The only scrapbooking I’ve done in the past couple years has been by myself and very intermittently.
Entering into motherhood also caused me to go from being a worrier to existing as a full-fledged, neurotic over-analyzer who second guesses everything. I couldn’t fully focus on any conversation with another mom because, of course, I was paying attention to Elliot. I know this is normal and OK. But I started recounting those conversations in my head after they ended, wondering if I shouldn’t have said something or lamenting about something I did say, afraid it was taken the wrong way. I still do that.
At some point after Elliot was born, my mom bought me a magnet that reads, “If it’s not in the scrapbook, it didn’t happen.” I thought that was a cute little saying for someone who makes a hobby out of scrapbooking, but of course, it’s not really true. Scrapbooking is a lot like Facebook in that way. I could pick the events I wanted to highlight, the pictures of me that were most flattering. I’ve started to wonder if that’s part of the reason I’m not as committed to scrapbooking as I once was.
Is that the reason? Or is it because it feels as though there’s never enough time? Or, more likely, is it because people and other things – laundry, dishes, exercise – take priority? Even though scrapbooking used to be a fairly regular activity, it feels like it should be done only as a reward now. When the kids are in bed or over the weekend. When I finally get that last load of laundry folded. When I finally dust the living room and run the vacuum cleaner. When I finally mop the kitchen floor. The problem is – if I keep waiting until all those chores are done, then I will never scrapbook again!
A small stash of my scrapbooking supplies still sits in a corner of my dining room near the table, my previous scrapbooking station. Perhaps I should pack up all my supplies? But if I am done with scrapbooking, then I should probably find some other way to document memories. I suppose that could be through plain old photo albums, written journals or keepsake boxes. Really, though, this blog is my way of keeping a journal. And I’m sure I’d come up with excuses not to do photo albums, too.
So I guess the solution is – I need to stop waiting until the right time, let go of the guilt and just scrapbook when the urge strikes. That seems simple enough. Of course, it’s not, though. It’s hard because it requires me to accept that life, like scrapbooking, is just messy. Everything, everywhere, is never going to be neat, all at the same time.
I’m pretty sure most toddlers are more artsy and crafty than I am. Despite my extreme lack of artsy-ness and craftiness, scrapbooking appealed to me because it allowed me to transform a messy pile of scraps into a beautiful page of memories.
Looking closely, however, even the finished beautiful pages still had remnants of the mess. When I would finally finish a page or two, I’d see crookedly adhered photos, often spotted with glue fingerprints. The cursive writing that I thought looked beautiful when I penned it close to my eyes turned out to look mediocre from an arm’s length distance. The final product was a little sloppy.
And that’s OK. Because the messy and the beautiful go together. In scrapbooking and in life, if it weren’t for the mess, the beauty wouldn’t exist.
Here’s what I’ve decided, though: Not only does beauty come after the mess, but beauty is also there in the mess. The mess itself is beautiful. We just have to see it. In ourselves and in each other. We are messy, beautiful warriors.
This post and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project. To learn more and join us, click here! And to learn about the New York Times best-selling memoir “Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life,” recently released in paperback, click here!