November 27, 2002
“Preserve your memories; they’re all that’s left of you.”
Simon & Garfunkel
My name is Lorie and I am a scrap-aholic. I admit my scrapbook hobby may be getting out of control. I’m also something of a packrat, although that’s another, oddly related topic.
The roots of my problem go deep. In the late ’50s my mother gave me a large maroon scrapbook with fleur-de-lis adorning the cover. I filled its now crumbling and yellowed pages with black and white class photos of smiling schoolchildren. The names and numbers of some of those children are still in my address book nearly 50 years later. That book lives in the cedar chest with my wedding dress.
In college I made another scrapbook. It includes a photograph of me sitting in on the lawn at Fullerton College, protesting the invasion of Cambodia. It was in that book that I began writing little stream of consciousness notes so that I wouldn’t forget the people and moments that were so important at the time.
Around 1970 I started another kind of scrapbook. I bought one of the first little blank books and began copying quotes from favorite authors, poets and songwriters. Walt Whitman, Kurt Vonnegut, Henry David Thoreau, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon. That red book is filled with handwritten entries in bright Flare pen colors. I also began entering bad little angst-filled poems and other pieces I’d written. It wasn’t exactly “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” but you get the idea. A diary or journal might have contained a complete chronicle of every thought, every feeling. A scrapbook allows some perspective and perhaps a little editing. Maybe even other voices.
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Later I included the poem and Bible verse from our wedding and a letter I wrote to our unborn child when I was pregnant. Nearly 25 years later that letter opened the scrapbook I made for Joanna. I also recorded a few stories about each girl so that I wouldn’t forget what funny, wondrous, insightful little beings they were.
I guess that is the point of a scrapbook — remembering. But like most people my memory needs a catalyst, a phrase, an object, an image, a fragrance, or a song that sparks a long-dormant memory. That’s probably why I save all the things I do — that pack-rat thing I mentioned before.
Furthermore, significant events need to be framed with words for me. And while spoken words are gone in a flash, writing makes the moment permanent. I try to hold on to the moment, so I can revisit it or share it across time and distance.
Both happy and sad memories are important. One gives perspective to the other. All of those experiences and choices brought me to this place. So if I ever question who I am or how I got here, I have my own personal database.
Evidently millions of others have joined me in this scrapbook obsession. There are support groups meeting all over the country under the guise of scrapbook parties and workshops. There are entire stores dedicated to its products. I admit I own the enormous suitcase full of materials and tools, affectionately known as the “my husband’s going to kill me kit.” If you’ve been to a scrapbook party, you know what I mean. It’s filled with an album, extra pages, decorative paper, page protectors, pens, cutting and mounting tools and way too many stickers. All archival quality, of course, and acid free.
In the last two years I have completed Joanna’s album and the two identical family histories that I gave my father and brother last Christmas. I also compiled a book about my trip to visit New York City after Sept. 11.
Now that I’m working on Katie’s graduation album, I’ve gone back to the little blank book to remind me of her stories. I spent some time rereading and remembering. Look what I found:
“All my life I’ve been a collector of things — theatre tickets, wedding napkins, notes passed hand-to-hand in seventh grade English class. Love letters written but never sent. The last flower to bloom in the weed field before it became a parking lot. Things are saved for a special reason and, if you are a collector, you know that you save many things even when you’ve grown away from the reason you saved them. Like old corsages that have become faded and brittle.”
I told you that the roots of my problem go deep. That paragraph came directly from that old blank book. I wrote it in 1970.
Lorie Smith Schaefer has lived in Carson City for 25 years. She is a reading specialist at Seeliger School.
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