I know I’ve always been a bit sentimental, a memory Keeper of sorts.   I have written in a journal since age 8 and in my mid teens I began pasting photos onto card stock and labeling them.  In my late teens I was introduced to ‘Acid Free Scrapbooking’ and I took to it like a dolphin to water.  Not only did I appreciate a more creative method of storing my memories I embraced the technology behind it, I could see why  I should save my stories and memorabilia for my posterity.  The first acid free project I worked on was a scrapbook for a cousin I’d never met, Rebekah, about her father (my Uncle Ricky) who died of Leukemia when she was only 1-year-old.  My mother asked me to help her and I agreed, not knowing what I was getting myself into.  What I was ‘getting myself into’ was a cathartic trip down memory lane for my mother.  She looked at pictures she hadn’t looked at in ages and told stories, she read his old letters and included them in his book, she laughed, she cried.  Through her eyes I met an Uncle I’d never known and loved him and through her actions I was introduced to a cousin who I had never met.  It was powerful and I became a little addicted.  Later I was privileged to take a copy to my Grandmother on behalf of my mother and was able to witness my Grandmother and two of my three Aunts as they reminisced and cried and touched each other in empathy.  Once again I was overwhelmed by the power the simple act of lovingly documenting a loved one could have.  I was hooked.  I became a scrapbooker.  At that time Acid Free scrapbooking supplies were expensive and difficult to find and I was a young, broke, newly married woman but I managed to eek out one little book after another with mostly hand drawing and scribbles, but they were personal.  Fast forward 5 years and I became a mother.   Motherhood is a great motivator.  In my case, my husband and I were able to adopt a beautiful little 2 1/2 year old girl.  As we progressed in the adoption I prepared as much as I could for her arrival (we had 4 short weeks to accomplish ALL), in my searching one of the things I found (that I wish I still had) was an article in the local newspaper about the importance of ‘connection’ in adoption.  The author stressed that if a child had been in a previous home that photos of their loved ones should be displayed in your home along with your family momentos.  They suggested keeping the photos up and available as long as the child needed them.  So, I took pictures of her foster parents (they protested a lot but I stressed it was in my daughter’s best interest and they relented).  I framed those pictures in inexpensive plastic frames and placed them on low surfaces in our home, one by her bedside and others scattered through her home.  It turned out to be excellent advice because Peekaboo (that’s what I call her) carried around those photos all the time.  Once again, the healing power of memory to the rescue.  As the adoption progressed I was handed a manilla envelope stuffed with pictures of my daughter from her time in Foster Care.  There were no dates, no identifying information and for the most part no other people in the pictures, so in the dead of night during our first few weeks after placement I cropped and pasted and decorated some really early digital scrapbook pages.  (they look pretty dorky…..BUT).  Peekaboo loved her book.  She looked through it all of the time.  She told me stories (I couldn’t always understand what she was saying but it meant something to her).  I made a copy for her foster parents and mailed it to them, her Foster Mom called me and cried.  Once again I was overwhelmed by the power of preserving memories.    As time progressed my scrapbooks became more sophisticated, my tools better, my topics more varied but the one thing that didn’t vary was my daughter looking through the albums.  She loves them.  The joke in our home is “If it hasn’t been scrapbooked, it hasn’t happened”.  Scrapbooking has helped knit together my family.  I’ve preserved special memories such birthdays and first days of school and other less typical events such as the rock that my daughter chewed on that got caught between her teeth, and of course her chickenpox.  I am now an avid digital scrapbooker and a Heritage Makers consultant, I teach about how to preserve photos both physical and digital and about archiving our memories safely.  I do all of this because I have seen the power of preserving memories.  I am a Memory Keeper and I’m proud of it.

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