I have been told that I am a very emotionally rich person. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. But I certainly did feel overwhelmed with many emotions after my parents died. There was so much longing, so much wishing for what once was – all that emotion with no place to put it.
I wanted to keep everything as it used to be. I wanted to hold on to the past so tightly that it would never leave me, to create a bubble for myself and my memories.
It was actually my sister who got me into scrapbooking after she was given the idea by a mentor. I was always hearing about the tools and supplies she was buying. And then one day I said, “Why don’t I do this too?”
I have found this new outlet to be very therapeutic. It has allowed me to take my roiling emotions and put them in order. I can put my feelings into these pages and grab onto the memories.
In recalling the past, I realized that there are different kinds of memories: there are the actual pictures in my mind of past events, and there are also “feeling memories.” For example, smelling a particular food or hearing a specific phrase can engender strong feelings, and when I have these feelings, sometimes I like to just sit and experience them.
Creating a scrapbook has prompted a lot of the feeling memories. Sometimes I feel sadness or longing. I am documenting a world that is no more. But creating the pages has helped me identify the emotions and put them in order. It has helped me enter the bubble I was yearning for, and afterward I am able to emerge and continue functioning.
Another valuable benefit of my scrapbook has been to allow me to share the memories with others. My children learned that the oldest grandchild coined the name Funny Zaydie for my father because he made people laugh. They can get a glimpse of our family birthday parties and the yamim tovim we spent together. Depending on my mood we can share what I’ve created and cry together or open it and laugh together.
One thing that I found really nice about scrapbooking is that there is no right way to do it. I enjoy writing, and I found that writing releases a lot of emotions and helps me put my thoughts in order. If you are more creative or artistic, you can narrate a full story with pictures and cut-outs.
If you like things to look just so, there are so many tools and materials you can use to create that perfect look. If you would you rather accomplish quickly without focusing on exactly how everything is placed, that’s okay too. After all, this is your bubble of memories.
Every craft store and even your local discount store (Target, Walmart, Amazing Savings) has loads of scrapbooking materials. I found it helpful to walk through the aisles and peruse the selection, which includes backgrounds, borders, stickers, lettering of all sorts, 3D applications and more. Sometimes seeing an item brought up a memory, and I knew it was just what I needed for my book. Then again, there are lots of materials you can find in your house: a piece of fabric or wrapping paper, a postcard or picture cut from a magazine, a ticket stub, etc.
Included here are some samples of what I’ve created.
Page number one was meant to be a more serious page. Learning, halachah and minhagim were an integral part of who my father was. I therefore chose colors that would be appropriate to this tone. Although I didn’t use any real “wow” materials here, it conveys the memory of my father holding on to what was really important to him. It was easy to find pictures of the sefarim and shtender. I could have made it fancier by making a 3D shtender or even including a picture of my father standing behind it and learning. Another option would have been to color copy the cover of a sefer and shrink it to size. What I created here, however, is a simple page that is filled with strong memories.
The second page describes one of my mother’s hobbies. It makes me smile. She enjoyed shopping, and I enjoyed shopping together with her. For this page I wasn’t aiming for the same tone as the one depicting my father’s learning. I therefore chose to do it in a brighter color to create a lighter feeling. When I look at it, I see my mother standing near the cashier, pulling out the right card. This is a page that gives me a pleasant feeling.
My parents, especially my father, was a real family man. He took great pride in his children, and we felt this each yom tov. So for my third page I chose to focus on how my father performed bedikas chometz with the grandchildren. When I look at this page, I see and feel this special brand of family pride. The reference to cleaning is a nod to my mother’s involvement here. To make it more real and personal, I cut out a piece of an actual shmatte. Using matzah paper was an obvious choice. It makes the page so much more appealing with little extra effort.
So where should you start?
You can create pages arbitrarily, working on ideas as they come to you, or you can work systematically. For example, go through all the significant events of a single year, documenting each one on its own page. Create a spread for each yom tov, showing how your family celebrated it through the years. Create a page for each family chasunah. Or create pages by the season: a fall section might include the first day of school, Succos, raking leaves; a winter section might include Chanukah, snowstorms, family melave malkas; a spring section might include Pesach, planting flowers, mowing the lawn; a summer section might include family vacations, visiting day, family BBQs, etc. Perhaps your book might include a section showing the time before your parent was sick; the period during which your parent was ill; and a section showing family life or activities after your parent’s petirah.
Do you have any mementos from your parent? A scrapbook is the place to stick your mother’s favorite magnet or your father’s yarmulke. Any picture or item can be the springboard for a page. I actually did the credit-card page after I found my mother’s cards in her wallet. My mother’s essence wasn’t shopping like my father’s was learning, so it wasn’t until I found the credit cards that I thought of making this kind of page.
Above all, remember that this is your space. If you love the color orange, use it. Your
best friend might not understand why you chose that color – that’s okay. Tap into your emotions and your memories. Your sister might question your perception about something – that doesn’t matter because this is your safe place to release and experience your emotions.
Does this whole idea feel overwhelming to you? Then don’t make a scrapbook, make a scrap page. Choose something that is precious to you and create just one page surrounding it – you can’t go wrong.