Fantasy Scrapbooks

Scrapbooking can be a beast of a hobby. What begins as a simple project, at least for me, spirals into piles of decorative paper, cat photos, stickers, illustrations, and did I say cat photos?

Yes. His name is David, and at sweet-sixteen he’s achieved true sassiness.

For years, I’ve made an annual scrapbook around Christmastime. They’re cute, cheerful, and I enjoy being able to almost document each year I’ve shared with my partner and our many pets. But I do have to admit the almost, because my scrapbooks are a bit of a fantasy.

Revisionist history, if you want to be strict about it. I  don’t allow any pain or negativity in these things.

Do you have a place like this in your life? Somewhere that you collect joy, or achievements, and refuse to cross-contaminate with the bleaker parts of daily reality?

I used to wrestle with that, and worry I was being deceptive. Isn’t it manipulation, to only tell part of the truth? Isn’t it wrong, to pretend bad things aren’t happening?

Right now I’m working on my scrapbook for 2021, and I refuse to include anything to do with politics or hospitals or debt. In a way, it feels dismissive of true troubles. At the same time…

…look at this puppy. Her name is Ellie, and she just turned two. In a strange way, keeping bad experiences away from my scrapbooks feels like keeping bad experiences away from her. It’s the same as when I used to keep a daily journal or diary – I’ve always tried to focus on the positive.

It felt transgressive, cropping the urn out of this photograph. And I felt a little guilty, as though I had cropped a loved one from my life.

But I need to remind myself that this is not true. The reality is that I don’t need reminders for the memories that weigh me down. I couldn’t forget, even if I wanted to. What lifts me up, without an undertow of sadness – those are the thoughts and memories I want to purposefully cultivate. It is a fantasy timeline, but my scrapbooks are condensed and portable joy.

Besides, they’re probably the only place I can swoon over how cute my aquariums are. Mammals are pretty easy to love, but let’s not forget the aqua life.

That snail on the left is Bunny. She’s who-knows-how-old, and is photographed with one of her many daughters and grandbabies. I have oodles of fish and invertebrates at home. Some have teeth, some eat wood, some swim upside down. One likes to frolic in bubbles and many, like that corydoras in the background, look perpetually alarmed.

But in the scrapbook they go. And I really hope, with 2022 just around the corner, that you have a happy place like this in your world. Whether it’s an altar or website or journal – even just a corner of your mind. Joy is worth protecting.