It’s a small office. Some people work from their homes. Some people come to the office five days a week. Most of our employees are men. One woman works from her home full time. Another comes into the office for a few hours a few days a week. Then there’s me.
I chat with one of the other female employees on a regular basis. She and I have a few things in common besides working for the same company. We were born in November of the same year, we each have a boy in college, we both grew up in Alexandria. That’s where the similarities end for the most part.
She has three children, all boys. One in college, one in high school and the third, well, the third isn’t old enough to start school yet. Yikes.
So while she’s enduring all the trials and tribulations of her children growing up and leaving home, she’s also re-experiencing the joys of having a toddler. He does attend some sort of preschool. My co-worker uses words like “playgroup” and “parent co-op” and “timeshare sitting”. Such terms were not in vogue--I’m not even sure they existed--when The Boy was a toddler.
She’s an avid photographer and of late has been talking about the scrapbooks she’s putting together for her children. She mentions Stamping It Up parties and says she attends to get ideas. I nod and smile. She speaks of page counts and background color choices and cropping styles. She analyzes organizational methods and scrapbook philosophies.
Inside my head, I’m all like “Scrapbook philosophies? WTF?”
But I like this woman. She has a courageous heart. So outside my head, I nod and smile.
In the spirit of conversation, I told her about the book I put together for The Boy. It’s the only scrapbook I’ve ever compiled. Oh I've started others, but never got very far. This one I made for his high school graduation party, for his friends and family to see the chronicle of his life. While some thought obviously had to go into organization, it was hardly what I'd consider philosophical.
Working on that scrapbook was part of the process of letting go, although I was unaware of it at the time. Hindsight can be quite revealing. I wonder how I miss such things as they are occurring.
My co-worker asked if I would bring the scrapbook to the office to show her. “Sure,” I said, “although it’s really just pictures in a book. It's not fancy, nothing like you’ve been talking about.”
Ever so modest, that’s me. But seriously. It’s just pictures in a book, right?
It had been almost two years since I’d looked at that scrapbook. Our photos and other family mementos had been stashed in a storage unit with many of our household possessions after we moved. When we finally brought everything home a week or so ago, that book was the first thing I looked for.
I settled down to peruse my handiwork and was caught a bit off guard by the flood of emotion. Silly me. How could it not inspire emotion? Our only child’s life from birth through high school. Family, friends, places, pets, activities---jam packed with memories, it is.
Scrapbooks are time machines, at least this one is. "Do you remember what your mom looked like in 1986? Well here she is! Oh wait, that's not your mom at all. That's your grandmother! Yes yes, she does look young, doesn't she? And so thin!"
I also included in the book a few pieces of his schoolwork that speak of him as clearly as the pictures do. One was a story he wrote in first grade on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle notepaper. (Egad, does anyone else remember those Ninja Turtles?) I can still picture him hard at work, head down, his pencil gripped firmly.
It struck me as I turned the pages, that while it will become his eventually, I didn't really put it together for him. I thought that's what I was doing at the time, but now I'm pretty sure it was for me.
My sister gave him that "bound for greatness!" sticker. It had been on his bedroom door for years. Some people say this picture looks like a mug shot but I disagree. I like it because I see the twinkle in his eye, the hint of a smile, the vulnerability just under the surface, the promise of all that is to come.
Yeah. That's my baby.
He's on his way.