Currently among the books in my rotating reading piles, kept handy to spark my imagination, is One Special Summer. It's a large (13" x 11") but slim book, like a children's picture book. Two young women, 22-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier and her 18-year-old sister Lee, chronicled their trip to Europe in 1951 with an illustrated journal which they gave to their parents as a thank-you gift on their return. It reminds me of my exuberance and humorous escapades when I traveled to those same places in the early 1960's when I was 19 (and of my own loved travel journals, long since lost during our many family moves).
But I keep this book handy in my inspiration pile because it suggests to me something important about the scrapbooking we do today. Over 50 years ago, we didn't have a legacy-oriented industry, with endless selections of acid-free paper and patterns, oodles of embellishments, pre-made word and title labels, enough tools to satisfy the most addicted tool junkie (like me), and easy access through online stores no matter where we live. But the urge to record the story of something special in one's individual tone of voice isn't new. In this book, Lee writes and Jackie illustrates with just pen and ink, because "when we gave presents to our mother . . . she far preferred something we had written or drawn to anything we might buy for her." The personalities shine through, although the photographs are few and the embellishments nil. Lee remembers other trips she took with Jackie, again with wonderful memories, but "I can only look back on those trips and think how marvelous it would have been if we had recorded them as we had this first one. Perhaps we had lost some special sense of time, in growing up."
Lee explains how she found her forgotten journal: "Earlier this year, in looking through an unexpected wealth of letters, diaries and old photographs for a book of reminiscences I am doing, I discovered that, since our grandfather's time, we have never thrown out as much as a postcard from a relative. My mother, after searching through her attics for material that might be useful, brought me this account of my first trip to Europe as one among several of her most precious possessions from us. We had forgotten about it. As I reread and thought about it, it seemed too much -- a kind of separate entity -- to include as part of my book. So here it is, just as we did it in 1951, with not a word or a pen stroke changed."
Doesn't this make you think about how the habit of saving precious family things has changed as we've become a more mobile society (without enough attics)? And how the habit of corresponding has changed as we focus more on the speed and ease of electronics and less on the slower body pace and rigor of thought in the handwritten? And how, when we recognize the urge to tell our story, we often resort to other people's "found" old photos -- and handwriting samples, because we've lost confidence in our own unschooled version? Somehow I sense, even in my classes, that the pendulum is swinging. Perhaps we are becoming a little impatient with scrapbooking when it becomes just a page crowded with photos and purchased embellishments, with not enough true individual story line.
Perhaps, as the industry and art form mature, more of us are seeking encouragement to return to the journal form of scrapbooking, where we combine those precious photos and desirable acid-free supports with the handwritten and doodled account of the "real" story, the emotions, the jokes, the near escapes for which there are no mass-produced substitutes. So that one day, when our scrapbooks are found saved in the attic, they are more than a collection of commercial papers and embellishments, more than the proverbial shoebox of photos transferred to book form, more of the personal story.
14 minutes ago