Scrapbooking is keeping a diary, but a very special kind of diary.
Men and women both have been storing their memories and experiences in written and visual form for thousands of years. Some cave paintings in France are over 40,000 years old. But diaries really took off in the 18th century. With cheaper, more plentiful and easier to use paper, keeping a diary became commonplace among royalty and commoner alike.
But a scrapbook is more than just a written diary. It holds photos, snippets of baby’s first hair, a special flower from that first dance… anything and everything that might be important to the scrapbooker. There are as many different items, and as many different styles, as there are individuals who keep a scrapbook. The name may say ‘scrapbook’ but it probably should say ‘precious memory book’.
And what’s precious is different for every person – man, woman, girl and boy. One girl may remember vividly that first home run in little league. A boy may want to record that first ribbon won in the spelling bee. A mother will want to keep a newborn baby’s bracelet from the hospital. Dad will want a photo of his son’s graduation from high school.
But for every scrapbook, some selectivity is required. We can’t yet store every item ever encountered. Even one running digital diary of daily thoughts and photos would consume more disk space than all the computers of the world! So, many are built around a theme.
For some it may be a coherent theme maintained across the years – the first kiss, the first published poem, the last love letter. For others, it’s a chronological journal of events in one’s life, however random. For still others it may be the family photo album full of great vacations, supplemented by descriptions, decorations and items gathered on those joyous occasions.
A scrapbook can be large or small, made of paper and plastic or purely electronic. It can be a set of volumes running from birth to death or it can be a single valued album with just the highlights of a life well lived.
But for every scrapbooker it is probably at least one thing: a treasured personal storehouse of disappointments and delights, sad times and joys, lows and highs. Because for every scrapbooker, the act of arranging those concrete reminders is sometimes nearly as important as the memories themselves.
Through scrapbooking we arrange those memories outside ourselves. It allows us to find a springboard that will bring them back to life, however momentarily and faintly or vividly and forever. We bring our experiences to life and re-live them, sometimes with nostalgia, at others with passionate glee.
A scrapbook is forever, passed from hand to hand, generation after generation. It is the history of our lives, told by those who thought them important enough to convey to ourselves and those who came after.