We had a leak. I didn’t know we had a leak until I needed to find something in my big miscellaneous folder slid in a gap between a desk and an outside wall. Everything in the folder had fused together: the baby red books now keeping all those birth weights and growth centiles a pulpy secret, an end of year scrapbook for one son the playgroup had presented us reduced to a crinkle of smudges, and envelopes of photographs I’d meant to organise welded into a rainbow brick.
I peeled it all apart which completed the destruction. Some prints had good bits – somebody’s twisty hair, a pair of painted feet, a bit of wizard cape. Tiny fragments of treasures to remind me what I’d lost.
I suppose if it had all disappeared I might not have realised what I’d lost. I’d have forgotten what was in there and not missed it. I wonder what else I’ve forgotten. It makes me appreciate my framed pictures all the more, safely hanging in my sight. Always there, despite my otherwise organisational disarray.
My favourite childhood books were our old photo scrap books, despite my baby pictures being the last ones to have been glued in. To find more pictures of me I had to raid a big brown envelope of stuck-together plastic sleeves: a vinyl-smelling psychadelic trip of 1970s swimsuits and faded curtains. Then came the shoebox of shame – wodges of embarrassed teen pics, very often taken round the table after whatever event had already happened and everyone was tired and shiny.
Years later, after we had all grown up and moved out, Mum ripped out all the wonderful old pictures from the scrapbooks to be placed in fancier albums. Of course, despite years of quiet retirement, she never got round to it. I wanted to show my kids the scrapbooks and found a bagful of curly chaos.
How come she found quiet moments to wield a glue brush when we were little but never once she only had herself to please? And why have I only inherited her muddle genes? I think my brother may have them all in another big brown envelope stashed in his garage, probably all stuck together, hopefully not wet.
James has put together beautiful albums for many clients from their photo shoots. In our digital age it may seem old-fashioned, but they are tangible treasures – for generations. Irreplaceable family history you can hold in your hands, share with your children – and pass down for them to share with their own families one day.
One day we’ll get round to doing some for ourselves. Even if I simply stick a bunch of my mad snaps in a cheap scrapbook it would be better than a sodden lump of regret.