I have a lot of guilt.
My mother is a fabulous recorder of memories. The scrapbooks she created documenting my childhood have become my memories and thus an important part of my sense of self. At this point I can’t tell whether my memories are my own or my mother’s recording. How do you record your life? What memories are worth recording and what does it even mean to remember, anyway? I read once that the more times you recall a specific memory, the less accurate it gets. Unlike a computer, or even a scrapbook, our brain constantly adjusts and revises the information it stores.
Jeffrey brought in a hand. Or rather, a sculpture of a hand. He told us about the homunculus, a fascinating region of the brain that maps out our body and creates our sense of physical self. Your hands (and lips) are disproportionately large (check out this cool diagrammatic representation) because they are so important, especially as sensory input.
As humans, tactile work, using our hands to really create something, is extremely satisfying. I love to make, build, create in a very hands-on way. But back to my guilt. I love to make dinner, build chicken coops, and create house plans…but not scrapbooks. And until I became a mother, it wasn’t much of an issue. In fact, I even had a few photo albums to highlight the years. But since the birth of our daughter, almost ten years ago, everything change. First of all, the digital camera became the prevailing device which eliminated the restrictions of the roll of 36. Second, I immediately felt the pressure of my new role as the de facto keeper of the family memories. I tried in the beginning, and filled up an album with just the first three months of her life. Obviously some editing would be needed. Overwhelmed with decisions, and not enjoying spending my limited free time fretting over it, I procrastinated. And here I am almost a decade later, still struggling.
The scrapbooking community is huge, and my mother is an enthusiastic member, applying stickers, cutting out colored paper, handwriting special captions, the works! And they are wonderful! Sure, I could go to iphoto and upload some pictures from my phone (if I could possibly manage to choose a reasonable collection from the thousand photos I took this year) and viola! A high-quality photobook would arrive on my doorstep. Or I could call Facebook my album and use that to document my life. But there is something so heartfelt in a handmade scrapbook that is lost on a printing press. Knowing that it is my mother’s handwriting labeling a lock of my baby hair, that her hands where the one’s to glue my first drawings to the page which she framed with a colored paper border, that the hospital bracelets taped in the book where around our wrists, big and small, these are the things that make a scrapbook so much more than a collection of photos. As one coWORKer said “Making something slick is easy, making something special is harder.”
And that’s my problem. I want so desperately to make something special I’m letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. And also, as much as I love scrapbooks, I have yet to fall in love with the act of scrapbooking. Hopefully one day I’ll get the bug, and my daughter will get a very special book of memories in return.
Written and photographed by Natasha Juliana. Curious about WORK? Sign up for a free trial!