ScrapMoir How To #7: The Point

by Bettyann Schmidt on January 28, 2010

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #23 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

By Bettyann Schmidt

In the years I’ve been teaching people to tell their stories and create scrapbooks and albums, I’ve been noticing a recurring problem among a lot of folks. I named it “The Point,” and in fact used it as the first chapter of the book I’ve been working on for a couple of years. That should tell you something about me.

I’ve watched women, young and old, get to the part in class where we journal the stories about our pictures, and I’ve watched when a young mom might write something like, “Dustin taking his first step.” And that’s it? That’s better I guess than, “Dustin, June 2007.”

Oh, Ladies, our families need to read our stories. They want to know what you felt about those photos in your book. And that is exactly “the point.” Look at a photo. Why was it taken? Who took it? What was happening at the time?

What’s the Point?

What is your goal for recording your memories? You must know the answer to this question. Do you want to tell people something, or do you simply want to put the pictures in albums all lined up like soldiers in an army with maybe a date and a name?

Why do we take so many photos, if not to record why we took them? I know I enjoyed taking pictures of my little girls when they were small, all dressed up in red rosebud flowered cotton dresses and patent-leather shoes with ankle straps and bows. But I finally found out, and knew in my heart, when I got to the point of putting those pictures in albums, that’s not the reason I want to remember. It’s not about the clothes they were wearing.

My children had such precocious personalities when they were growing up, like so many children. Now my younger grandchildren are developing those personalities that sometimes amaze me when they say something so profound for their ages.

One of my little granddaughters, Rachel, who stayed with me a whole summer and had her own room upstairs, came on Christmas Eve 2008 and proceeded to walk up and down the stairs, into the dining room, through the downstairs bedrooms and into the kitchen, over and over. Finally she stopped, looked at me with those blue eyes, with her hands on her hips, and said, “I’ve looked everywhere in this house, and I can’t find my room.”

We’d cleared everything out of her room to start working on it, redecorating. The look on her little face made me laugh, and then I wanted to cry. To think she thought her bedroom was somewhere in our big house and she simply couldn’t find it, like a lost toy. That story definitely goes in my collection of memories about the family that is evolving into my memoir.

Some of the scrapbooks I’ve seen among women who embrace this concept have made me wonder what in the world I would do if my mother or grandmother had left something like this for me.

One of these was an album created by a mother for her two children, and she wrote letters to them on the pages with the photos. You couldn’t help but get teary-eyed reading those stories. This was on a day, about eight years ago, with a roomful of women listening to this mom talk about why she does what she does and showing us what it looked like.

The story and page I remember most– and inspired the writer in me the most–was of her son’s ninth birthday. She chronicled the entire day, starting at breakfast and ending with the birthday party with all of his friends who were sleeping over. At the end, she had written how she sat on the steps outside his room and listened to the boys laughing and playing with the gifts he got, and how happy she was at that very moment, just sitting on that step outside her child’s room on a momentous occasion.

That day, looking at her album, I wanted to race home and dig into my kids’ pictures and do something  just as stupendous. This is not a little thing. Not for a child. Or that child’s own children someday. A burning desire ignited in my heart that day that hasn’t been extinguished.   Your family’s history is being lived out in real life right now.

Smaller Points

Before you can tackle The Point, it’s assumed that you’ve done the foundational work. You’ve organized yourself in such a way that the project you want to create will be both fun and easy.

Order is the shape upon which beauty depends.” Pearl S. Buck

I know the above quotation is true for a fact, because if I try to create something when there is chaos all around me, stuff stashed everywhere, my tools and products is disarray and not in their proper places, I will not be successful. If my cardstock is not organized in its folders, it affects the order in my head. I have to clean up my space first and start over.

Now, you might be thinking, oh she is just OCD. I’m not like that at all. I can work in clutter. Yes, a lot of people say that. All I can say, however, is I’ve not found that to be true of all the ladies I’ve worked with. The ones who can’t get organized don’t accomplish anything.

About Story Points

Finding the point of my photo stories comes easier to me these days. The subject of the photo is where you start. Below I show a page created about my oldest daughter, Sherry. Her life hasn’t been what I would have chosen for her. She was diagnosed with lupus at seventeen and stayed sick for a long time before we could even get the diagnosis. Over the years, she’s had terrible migraine headaches and arthritis, and two years ago she also had to suffer through cancer and all it entails, chemo and radiation, pain, the terrible sickness.  And all I could do was watch her go through it. As a mother, you find yourself wishing it was you instead. I live close to Nashville, and she was living in Jackson at the time, a couple of hours to the west, and I stayed with her a lot and tried to at least help with the house and my two teenage grandchildren.

Sherry’s personality, like all of my children’s, is unique, and during her surgery and treatment, I began to see her as a hero. She got through it with more grace than a lot of us would. I was so proud of her. You think of all the stuff you’re proud of in your kids, and here I ended up being more proud of my daughter during that time than I’ve ever been in my life.

Another one of my children, my youngest, also got a page about being a hero. Jeff’s story came before Sherry’s, and I’ve always wondered if I’d gotten prepared back then for dealing with what was to come years later with another child. Still, it doesn’t make it any easier.

There are no decorations on this page of Jeff, though it was a celebration. I’m doing more of this type of layout, just black and white, to go in my own memoir for the kids and my sisters and brothers. Especially the older photos. They’re so classy, it’s almost an insult to try to fancy them up.

What’s Your Point?

Look at some of your photos and try to see beyond just the visual, look at the character of the person, the place, or the scene, and try find the real story. We’re not going to do this with all of our photos, or even very many of them. Only the ones we look at and feel the story speaking to us. If a picture provokes emotion in you, that’s probably the one. You can keep the rest in photo boxes or files, or the slide-in type albums.

I’m still learning every day and changing my direction after eleven years. Mostly because of digital. It’s exciting, creating your own books filled with your own writing and memories. Who can stay away from it? It’s a big business these days.

I want you to experience the feeling that comes from telling a rich story around some of your pictures, getting away from the plain old who, what, where, and when.

“Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject.”
Thomas Mann

The above says it all. If you get just the basics you need, and you adapt an organizational system that works for you, and you keep the whole project simple, you will master the process. And you will love it, and it will enrich your life more than you can imagine.

As usual, let me know of any problems or suggestions, or just anything you’d like to tell me. I’m reachable, or leave your Comments below and I’ll respond.

Bettyann Schmidt

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