Friday, March 20, 2020

In Isolation With A Box Of Old Scrapbooks

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

"When (people) try to throw something away,
they feel like they are losing... personal history,
losing a bit of themselves, losing a little of their identity"
Co-author of Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

In these quiet days when many of us are isolating, I have taken up a project to deal with old scrapbooks. It's partly about spring cleaning and decluttering; it's partly about dealing with old stories that still want to be told.

About three years ago, I brought the scrapbooks into the light of day hoping to deal with them. Although I had a lot of fun chortling my way through the pages, in the end I wasn't ready to discard much of anything. This past week I got a strong urge to try again. As I gazed at the pile of squashed mementos from college days in the late 1970s -- crammed class schedules, letters from home, samples of notes passed in class, crumbling corsage petals, a candle from my 20th birthday cake, quotes and magazine pics that hung on my bulletin board -- it dawned on me why I was having trouble letting this stuff go. An historian at heart, I kept these mementos to remind me of the stories that went with them. And, until I finally do my job as a writer and get them written down, my old scrapbooks with their long 'apron' strings will not release me.

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

A very 1970s sample of what was tucked in my college scrapbook

Not so long ago, I found myself captivated by the sub-title used on Dame Helen Mirren's lovely memoir In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures. As a child, I loved illustrated storybooks, and those words 'my life in words and pictures' reminded me that I also love biographies and memoirs when they are offered with photos. E.g., if you're writing about your experience being a wedding cake designer, I'll want to see a photo of the wedding cake you describe so amusingly as your worst disaster. It turns out I like writing stories with pictures to illustrate. Which means, I might finally know what to do with some of those old mementos I've been caretaking all these years.  

“I gather together the dreams, fantasies, experiences
that preoccupied me as a girl, that stay with me and appear
and reappear in different shapes and forms in all my work.
Without telling everything that happened,
they document all that remains most vivid.
BELL HOOKS, American Author

Looking at this pile of mementos, I start to see that in order to know which ones to keep and which ones can at last be discarded without regret depends upon which memories still matter, which still 'shimmer' with life at this stage. According to my former memoir instructor, Lisa Dale Norton, these are the stories to write down. Which means these are the mementos to keep (and/or take photos of). Once that is done, the scrapbooks finally can be decommissioned and discarded, their service complete.

Now, whether I write the stories just for myself or for you here on my blog, or for a future book down the road doesn't really matter at this stage. It's about being true to my inner lifelong need to record the stories and to finally use those mementos for something besides taking up space in a box on a shelf.

That, my beautiful friends, is what I've been up to the last few days.  I have been feverishly opening new files, writing down the stories, and snapping pics of the pertinent mementos. I'm excited to finally have an idea on how to move forward on this business.

 * * *

While I'm working away at that, I've also been keeping abreast of what our local Chief Medical Officer and government leaders are advising citizens in this unsettling time. I'm also whispering prayers for folks trying to find their way through this distressing, troubling season of corona virus disease 2019, abbreviated COVID-19. Hubby and I are staying close to home, staying in touch with family near and far, doing what we can to be part of 'flattening the curve'. And, one of these fine days, I know that I'll find a few rolls of TP to replenish the dwindling stock in my cupboard.

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.
Stay well. Stay safe. Stay calm.


With love and arms-length but heartfelt hugs,


  1. Brenda, that is exactly what I am doing these days too! A few years ago, my parents took all their slides and digitized them for me. I have been going through the pictures and writing stories of my life that go along with each photo. I'm planning to publish them in book form...called Days of Delight: Memories of a Lovely Childhood.


    1. Patti, What a lovely project you are working on. We must be of a certain age when gathering the memories becomes important. By this time we've all got lots. Wishing you many hours of delight and quiet contentment as you write your childhood stories with words and pictures.

  2. Well that explanation certainly makes sense. I hope that your journey through the scrapbooks brings back many a fond memory wanting to be shared. Take it easy and I am praying that you’ll find everything you need for the pantry and the cupboard.

    1. I appreciate your prayers, Vee. Perhaps these are times for praying quite literally for our daily bread and other needful essentials. Blessings for grace and safety sent with warmest heart hugs to you as well. xox

  3. I am not a story writer, but I have started taking digital pictures of old momentos and then I am at peace getting rid of these treasures.

    1. Ruth, I too find taking photos of old treasures gives me the ability to let go of the actual item. You say you aren't a storyteller, but maybe your stories are told with your camera? You share some amazing pictures on FB.

  4. Those blue and tan scrapbooks take me right back to Briercrest, for I have two of the very same ones. I had thought to discard them a few years ago, but decided it wasn't the time. Perhaps it's for the same reason you've written about here. What a lovely idea to take photos and write stories about the events.

    1. My price tag on one said Woolco 75 cents (maybe we bought them at the same store in Moose Jaw. What fun!

  5. Oooooo . . . I am imagining the thrill of uncovering those memories and recording them! It is almost like living it again to put words to the memories, isn't it? What a lovely way to use your "social distancing" time!

    I loved your "arms-length but heartfelt hug"! The same back to you!

  6. I knew I could come here and find contentment and beauty!
    Even your ending salutation is perfect.

  7. What a great project to keep you occupied while social distancing. I've been working from home since Monday, but I keep in touch with family, friends and co-workers virtually. Thank goodness for technology!


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo