Why I scrapbook

Hobbies are intensely personal. I scrapbook. Early on, when I started, my Mother shared a scrapbook my great-grandfather gave to her that he created. Looking through the album, and reading the three page letter inside was one of the most powerful moments I have experienced.

"This album has been prepared to show you a part of your Dad's life of which he has no remembrance" The hand-typed opening line of the letter is a simple, yet powerful beginning. In the album, he documented the meeting, courtship, and marriage of him and my Great-Grandmother, Bessie. He detailed their meeting, and their five year courtship through letters, the holiday that lead to their engagement and their marriage. There are documents including their marriage license, her report card from college, her librarian's certificate, and a handwritten letter of recommendation from one of her former employers. The pictures are small, and he developed and printed them himself, using the brake light of his car.

From the album, I learn that she was modern 1920's woman, with a short bob, a university degree, and worked as a school and children's librarian. Reading his letter, I learned that he was an incredibly pragmatic man, who loved my great-grandmother dearly. I also read the heart wrenching story of her death in my Grandfather's early childhood. She suffered from diabetes, and in the 1920's insulin treatment was worse than the disease, and eventually, he lost her to the illness.

I hold a piece of my family history that would have been lost to time, an understanding that can only come from a personal narrative, and a story that was intensely honest. The most important part for me is understanding who they were, not in the best moments, but in all moments.

The reality is that the story is the powerful part of the album. The photos, without the captions and the letter, would hold no meaning today. I try to remember that. I try to document the good with the bad, and capture the true essence of who we are as a family.


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