Saturday, September 23, 2006

Why I Scrapbook

I get some flack for my scrapbooking obsession. I’ve almost always got my camera with me and I scrap almost everything that happens. If I don’t scrap it, I blog it. Documenting our lives is a priority for me.

My dad was here for a couple days this week. He’s in his mid-80’s. You know how some older people tell lots of stories, over and over? He’s not one of them. I asked him lots of leading questions and got pretty much one-word answers back. He’s not rude or unfriendly, he just doesn’t seem to have much to say.

Ignoring my arm-waving and silent “NO!”, G. tried to get him to talk by asking him what I was like as a little girl. My dad told him that I did lots of singing and dancing as a kid, and that as the dance teacher’s pet, I would go up on the stage at age four and sing “Shantytown” in front of a whole audience.

G. was, understandably, shocked to hear this. “Really?

I shook my head. “Dad, that wasn’t me. That was Middle Sister,” I reminded him. Middle Sister and I are 12 years apart, so we’re talking whole different decades here.

“Really? I thought that was you.” He said he didn’t remember anything else. Since he was obviously impressed with Middle Sister’s childhood performances, I’ll probably just let him go ahead and think it was me next time. What the hell. He was gone much of my childhood, and was of the generation that provided for their families and left the child-rearing to the women, anyway, so it’s kind of remarkable that he has a memory in there somewhere of any of his children. I’ll take what I can get, even if it’s not about me.

While he was here, my dad was looking at my scrapbooks, and saw one about my head injury. “Brain injury? When did this happen?”

“Just last February. You remember – I fell, hit my head and ended up in the hospital. Almost needed brain surgery.”

“I didn’t know about that!”

“Yes, you did. Oldest Sister told you and you called me in the hospital. You asked if I needed anything.”

He narrowed his eyes as he searched in the archives of his brain, and finally shook his head. “Nope, don’t remember a thing about it.”

The last morning he was here, I asked him what my mom was like when she was a young woman. “Oh, just a typical college co-ed, I guess.” I waited, but that was all he had to say.

My mom died when I was 21, and we had what could charitably be called a complicated relationship, or uncharitably I suppose I could just say that she was crazy.
The few times that she and I managed to communicate with each other, the subjects of my childhood and what kind of little kid I was did not come up. My sister told me recently that she thinks my mom might have had PPD after I was born: “I don’t know; I just remember having to take care of you a lot.” At 19 years old, I’m sure taking care of her infant sister wasn’t exactly what she wanted to be doing, although she’s always been very nice about it.

So I never had very much information about my childhood, and in the last few days I realized that now I’ll never have it. I don’t know what my favorite toys were. I don’t know what I liked to do or what my favorite foods were. I don’t know what my first word was, when I got teeth or when I walked. I don’t know what kinds of activities I enjoyed. I know almost nothing about myself or my life before the age of six. My sisters were 12 and 19 when I was born, and they remember some stuff, but didn’t realize it was up to them to keep a baby book for me.

G.’s parents, on the other hand, are younger (and alive, which helps) and still know all that information. I know he walked at 16 months and his first sentence was, “There’s no pickle in there,” complaining about his tuna sandwich. He was a great sleeper and slept so much that his mother worried. He was shy but polite (except, I guess, if you made his tuna wrong).

Anyway, that’s why I scrapbook. As teenagers, my boys will probably roll their eyes at the albums upon albums filled with their childhoods, but no matter what happens to me, the stories will be available to them, and they’ll never think I wasn’t paying attention.


Beastarzmom said...

You know, I don't think he could tell us much about older sister's childhood either - the reason he did with me is that he was INVOLVED! He was my accompanist, and I think he was thankful to have something to contribute. He will also be able to tell you about times I got in trouble (My other specialty where he got involved). Doubtful he could tell you a single instance where either you or big sis was in trouble.

Yet another reason for dads to get involved. Thank heavens for a new generation of dads who care...

Sarah O. said...

Oh dear, I feel so guilty (I bet you hear that a lot in your line of work). I have loads and loads of photos of the kids when they were very little but so few since then. Guess I got too busy and my little bipolar one got too difficult. Not to mention that Hubby has been away on business more than he's been home, literally, for the past 10 years.

Great news about that: He's come to his senses in many ways, including about being an absentee father. He's very involved now and I'm hanging back so he gets every opportunity possible to reconnect with the kids.

Anyway, I do tell the kids often about the cute/wise/funny things they've said or done over the years. And I make sure I tell them I love them every frickin day!

Phew. I feel much less guilty now. How much do I owe you for your time?

Boobless Brigade Master said...

I'm sure you would have been journaling anyway, but be glad you started having children right around the scrapbooking boom time.
Daisy will be 17 in two months and I'm just getting started on year number three. Sigh. She'll probably have children of her own by the time I catch up! LOL

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