I was sitting at my mother's kitchen table, poring over shades of blue and trying to figure out which paper matched the graduation cap in the photo of the grinning 5-year-old holding her preschool diploma.
While some take to the slopes or curl up with a good book, my mom and I spend our winter free time scrapbooking. I am relatively new to the hobby, but hooked. I find it to be an odd mix "" an artistic endeavor with a practical purpose. It's a creative outlet, for sure, but at the same time, I am (very slowly) getting something important done "" even if I can never actually cross "archive all of life's most memorable moments" off the to-do list.
Scrapbooking is as much about consuming as producing. There is a seemingly endless array of tools and supplies "" not just paper in various colors, sizes and textures, but all sorts of gluing and cutting implements. "Adhesives" come in sticks, dots, squares and rolling dispensers. Paper can be cut straight, wavy or in zig-zags using fancy scissors and small paper cutters fitted with special blades, or "punched" into stars, hearts, ovals and many other shapes. On the pricier end of the spectrum, there are special machines that custom-cut letters and numbers.
Then there are the "embellishments," which can include everything from stickers and "journaling blocks" (where you add text that tells the story behind the photos) to three-dimensional items such as buttons, ribbon, chipboard letters and metal brads. It's a bit overwhelming at first, and, it doesn't take long to see why some people have giant suitcases, closets and even whole rooms devoted to storing their scrapbooking stuff.
The art of scrapbooking does not come naturally to me. I've been to scrapbooking events with people who seem to have a knack for immediately seeing the color that will make a particular photo "pop." For me, it's a painfully slow, trial-and-error process. It seems a little crazy, when, in the time it takes me to design one page, I could have uploaded 10 times as many images and ordered a 20-page photo book from Snapfish.
But the rewards make the work worthwhile. There's the thrill of stumbling upon the perfect color or design element that transforms an ordinary photo or group of photos into something extraordinary. For someone like me, sentimental to the core, scrapbooking is the perfect outlet for ticket stubs and programs and newspaper clippings and all the little things I save. Instead of being tucked away into a dusty box, they can be used to add another dimension to a page.
Every scrapbook page contains multiple layers of paper, glue, memories and time. When I'm designing a page, I'm immersed in the moment and transported to the past all at once. When I'm on vacation, I'm enjoying the moments as they unfold ""and gathering mementos with which to frame them in future pages.
For me, scrapbooking is about mothers and daughters. It's a mom and a grandma, sitting across from one another at the dining room table in the house where I grew up, passing the glue sticks instead of the salt, each being crafty and creative in our own way, sharing paper and ideas, passing a Sunday afternoon reminiscing about the time we took the kids to the circus or on the wiggly train ride.
It's me poring over photos of my daughters blowing out birthday candles or striking a pose in their Halloween costumes, and the girls growing up before my eyes on the pages, like a flip book.
I am almost finished with the second scrapbook in my collection. Looking back through many hours of labor, some of the pages still thrill me; others are a bit crooked, or could be fancier, or might have looked better with a different design. But I must move on. There are so many more chapters to archive: baby days and school plays; concerts and graduations; weddings and family vacations.
It may take my whole life to complete them all, but that's OK. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that the best rewards are not from the results, but the process.
Lisa Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Oneonta. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.