I do not scrapbook. I am not a scrapbooker. I lack the patience, the money and the fancy scissors. Don’t get me wrong – I do not frown upon others of the scrapbooking inclination (my fabulous sister-in-law Jen being one of them). In fact, I admire them and covet their fancy scissors. But after years of self-banishment to the desert of Motherhood Inadequacy for producing nothing cute and texturally significant with my piles of photos, I have reached the oasis of Whatever. My new daily affirmation: “I am still a good mother even if I have never pasted a photo of my son playing soccer onto an artfully edged oval of paper adorned with little soccer balls and the word SOCCER! stamped across it diagonally.” Also I sometimes use: “My life can be complete without owning hundreds of dollars worth of stickers.”
I am intrigued by the fact that Utah is the scrapbooking capital of the world. Apparently we rock in the highly touted statistic of fancy scissors per capita (this being made all the more impressive by the percentage of our population who are under the age of 5 and have no business owning sharp objects, even if they are multi-colored and fun to play with). I think the Mormon admonition to do genealogy* has something to do with this. Somehow the scrapbook culture has turned genealogy into a creative outlet, a fashion statement, and a suburban status symbol. And the guilt normally associated with expensive, time-consuming hobbies is appeased because “Hey, I’m doing my family history.” Case in point: the vogue term for a paragraph of text (typed in font that looks like handwriting, artfully centered within a frame, and secured to the page with fake color-coordinated brads) is "journaling."
*The fact that I cannot spell this word without a search is a sign that I have not done mine. I do not genealogize. I am not a genealogizer. Clearly I am a slacker of gargantuan proportions and do not deserve to live in Utah. If Utah were Junior High, I would be the looser kicking rocks by the fence while everyone else busied themselves with Rubik’s cubes.
The kind of scrapbooking that makes me laugh and feel superior (because if you can’t join them, you must mock them) is where 21 layers of paper and an arsenal of stickers, stamps, ribbons and other 3-dimensional bits of collage-gone-wild are unleashed upon a page in order to create the ideal setting for exactly one (1) photo. This is scrapbooking only in the same sense that Extreme Makeover Home Edition is about remodeling. Yeah, right. Let’s just tell the truth and call it fanatical framing.
Extreme scrapbooking reminds me of those Baroque paintings (like this one by Claude Lorrain) that are given titles like The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt but are mostly an excuse for big landscapes with elaborate trees. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are almost an afterthought. In his version (below), Annibale Carracci even took the time to curve the top edge. All he lacked was the fancy scissors. Which were invented, by the way, by Leonardo da Vinci who drew sketches of fancy scissors in his notebooks but never got around to building them.
Where did this rant come from anyway? Well, you see I lied when I said I do not scrapbook, because every year I produce a grand total of 3 scrapbook pages. I do this to appease the scrapbook gods who hate me and may hurl my disdainful body into the volcano if I don’t make the offering. No, actually I do it because four years ago, my family simplified the tradition of the gift exchange and now we each make a few scrapbook pages to share. In all sincerity I think this is a great idea. I love having pictures and “year in review” summaries from my siblings and their kids (and dogs). Originally the logic was that instead of spending money on a gift, we would spend it on making color copies for everyone (which with 9 siblings does add up). In reality, my mother usually winds up paying for most of the copying which is another reason why I love this tradition. Wahoo! A cheap gift.
But not an easy gift. Because here I am, two days after Christmas, still working on my pages. I got the brilliant idea this year that I would get some digital scrapbooking software and avoid the paper cuts. All of my photos are on my computer anyway. I downloaded some nifty backgrounds and got started cropping my photos and outlining them in coordinating colors. “This is great!” I thought, “Why doesn’t everyone scrapbook this way?” Well, as I added a few more pictures to my page, I discovered why. Apparently, one digital scrapbook page consumes roughly the same amount of RAM it takes NASA Mission Control to launch a space shuttle. Even the smallest adjustments take forEVER to compute. I move one photo a half inch and the dreaded hourglass appears, the squirrels inside my computer groan under the strain, and I might as well go make myself a sandwich while I’m waiting. Half the time, the job is too much and I guess the squirrels keel over and die because my computer is hopelessly frozen when I return. As I see it, my options are these: 1) give up and risk being disowned by my family, 2) develop a year’s worth of film, get out my boring scissors, and do my best with the old-fashioned paper method, or 3) throw myself into the volcano.