My Bus Stop Babies
Last week, I was a guest on the Paperclipping Roundtable podcast with Tracy Banks. The host and producer of this scrapbooking audio show are Izzy and Noell Hyman and together we chatted about the topic of telling stories in our scrapbooks. Specifically, we were invited to share a recent page, and talk about the process of storytelling. Where do these ideas come from, what sparks them and how do we find the motivation to stop and tell them? Has the type of story we tend to scrapbook remained the same, or evolved/changed in any way since we began scrapbooking? These were the questions we were asked to think about before recording the show.
To be honest, I haven't scrapbooked all summer, as my basement studio is still not finished. I have had the itch to scrapbook for sure, so the invitation to come on the show and talk was the very motivation I needed to clear a space and make a page. My favorite type of story to tell is a connection story—a story that draws on memories over time to help us discover and articulate change and/or growth in ourselves or those that we love. I'm not sure I'm in love with that definition but it will have to do for now. This post shares the scrapbook page and the story that I talked about on the show ...
I am still a simple scrapper for sure, and my pages tend to be especially simple when I know that the story will require extra time. I started with a black cardstock base and then added a decorative yellow polka-dot bag. I love bags and big envelopes that will hold an extended story and also layer nicely with other elements. There are two similar photos, taken nine years apart, shear polka dot ribbon, narrow, "I Love You" ribbon, black sticker letters and some black enamel dots, and that's pretty much it. Note: I used dimensional adhesive to mount the more recent photo, and distressed the sticker letters and edges of the page with sandpaper. There are two date stickers adhered to the corner of each photo.
It was September 2006 and I desperately needed dedicated quiet time at home, so that I could build my new business, Big Picture Classes. After 14 years of children at home, I was going to put my youngest son on the school bus, send him off to full-day Kindergarten and have roughly six hours a day to concentrate, uninterrupted in my basement studio. I had exactly and only six weeks to focus on BPC, before our adopted daughter, Addie would arrive from Korea. Bringing a new infant into the family was going to change our lives and my routine—in a very happy way, but for now, I was ready to work. I remember getting up early, jogging, showering, and then helping the older boys get off to school. The very next day I was flying to Arizona to be the keynote speaker at a new scrapbooking event, called Creative Escape. I had much to do! I was making a checklist as I carefully watched the clock until it was time to load Taft into our van and drive him down to the bus stop at the entrance of our development. We waited together hand in hand. As the bus pulled up, and the door opened, Taft looked up at me hesitantly. He let go of my hand and started to climb those big black stairs. I watched that curly little top bob up and down behind his over-sized backpack as he ascended to the bus driver and then turned the corner. He made is way down the aisle and found a seat on my side of the bus. He sat down, scooted to the outside of the seat and then turned, put both hands up on the window and looked at me. I will never forget his expression and I don’t know that I have words to describe it, but I do know that I was not prepared for the hot, rush of emotion that swelled in my throat and began to ooze out of my eyes. I pulled my camera to my face and quickly took several pictures. The bus pulled away. I forced a smile, waved at my boy and burst into tears. I made my way back to the van, but could barely find my keys or see the ignition. I was a mess. As I headed up the hill, my tears swelled into audible sobs and I knew I was NOT going to be as “productive” as I had planned to be. I was clearly not ready to be done with my children-at-home season. All I could think about was bringing Addie home and making her the center of our lives. I knew in that moment that no matter what else I did with my life, the thing I most yearned to do—the thing that would ultimately bring me the most joy—was mothering my children and loving my family. The photo of Taft on the bus and the look in his eyes would forever be my reminder. Interestingly, I lost that photo just a month later when the hard drive on my laptop suddenly died.
When the end of that school year came around, I took my camera to the bus stop again and I watched Taft board the bus for his last day of Kindergarten. Suddenly, my mind flashed back to September and without any prodding from me, Taft seemed to perfectly retrace his steps. He climbed the stairs, turned the corner and found a seat on my side of the bus. He pushed himself to the window and looked out at me, only this time his eyes sparkled with confidence and he gave me his signature smile. This is the picture you see on this scrapbook page.
On October 20th of that year, we brought Addie home and it’s safe to say she is the center of our lives. She is like a spring of fresh water bubbling up out of the ground, full of life and sunshine. She is adored by her parents and her four older brothers—who may prevent her from ever dating—but will most certainly protect her at all costs.
I’m reflecting and writing this during the first week of October, 2015. This is because two days ago, on a gorgeous morning, as the sunlight began to make it’s way through and over the trees, Addie and I laughed and skipped our way to the bus stop. Instead of a camera, I now carry my iPhone, which allows me to take pictures whenever and wherever I am. When we reached the bottom of our hill, we chatted with the other kids in line and when the bus pulled up, I stood back and watched, as one by one these little people filed up those big, black steps. I remember thinking how small Addie is in comparison to even those, younger than her. But oh how she loves school and her budding independence. She might as well be driving that bus! Addie found a seat, scooted to the edge, looked out, smiled and then waved at me. Suddenly, in the briefest of moments and as a flash of familiar memory that jumped the nine intervening years, Addie put her hands on the window. Instinctively, I flew to the side of the bus, held up my phone and took this picture.
I blew her a kiss and walked away. Instead of hot tears, this time it was a rush of full-circle joy.
Remember that when you are chasing down a connection story that you do not have to know where it will end up when you start writing. The trick is to START writing. If you'll pay attention to story sparks, you'll most likely get the main idea, but the important thing is to get the thoughts, feelings and recollections out of your brain and onto the paper. The more you practice the easier this gets. Try really hard not to interrupt the flow of memory to second guess a word choice or adjust grammar, that can come later. Once the story is out, walk away for a day or two. Doing this gives you a little distance and needed perspective that you can use in refining.