I have been thinking a lot lately about the “grandma book” I am going to make for my granddaughter with the help of my scrapbook genius friend. I don’t speak the language of scrapbooking at all, but from what my friend has told me so far, apparently there are starter books of eight pages. She assures me, as though eight pages were not a sufficiently terrifying prospect, that I can always add more pages. Onto these eight pages, one pastes, presumably according to some conceptual format, captioned photographic evidence of however many of one’s own and others’ lives one desires to represent.
I am going to my friend’s home this afternoon to see her scrapbook materials and get an idea of what form I would like my project to take. She favors paper sets that apparently save you a lot of work. I have no idea what these are, but I will soon see. In the meantime, my preliminary work has been very largely, and fairly painfully, reflective.
The overarching principle before me is that I cannot take away the sin of the world and make it clean and perfect for my granddaughter, herself a sinner this entire first month of her life. And, I’ve never actually thought of ours as exactly the sort of family typically memorialized in scrapbooks.
Ours is a family that divorce has both sundered and enlarged; and, while sin does not cancel DNA, I’m not sure how many people’s lives I feel responsible for representing in my book to my granddaughter just because I happen to be in possession of some ancient photos of them. I think our present nuclear family — my husband, me, and our cat — and pictures of my daughter throughout her life, would be sufficient. I can always send my daughter more pictures along with the book, and let her get the extra pages if she chooses to. Is this a copout, I taunt myself, or is it a matter of good editing?
My husband reminds me that I’m a very good editor. I am warming to the eight-page limit. I have nine photo albums — weighing a total of 38 pounds! — of photos to cull, scan, and print. The visual logistics of the finished product I leave to my friend. The hard work for me is the physical handling of the heavy albums, and the mental and emotional handling of some of their contents. The memories don’t really sting; it’s the decision of what pictures to include and exclude that pricks a bit. Thankfully, memories are just memories, not revivals of erstwhile lives. And, most thankfully, the exercise has been a helpful reminder that we don’t show up for Judgment clothed in our original-issue DNA.