Parents … today is April 5, 2016 and I have a cautionary tale. Right around the time Max was born, I realized I needed to redo Madeline’s baby book. I had been very good (first born!) with writing in it and saving every little thing. It was overstuffed and the binding was breaking. I had a new baby book for Max that was an expandable scrapbook style and I decided to do the same for her. I went to Target and bought all of the supplies so I could take each old page and insert it into the new book. I had matching ribbons, trim, and cute decorations. I wrote an inscription in the front of the new book explaining to her what had happened to the old book and how I was making her a new one. I signed it lovingly from “Mommy” and dated it June of 2007.
I stored it in a bin in our guest room and meant to get to it that summer. Then life happened. My second baby became active. And he liked to put rocks and nickels in his mouth and destroy DVD players by putting the same kinds of things in them. The first baby graduated out of Kindergarten and I started having to take her places. To practices and events and concerts and birthday parties. There was homework and staying busy over summer vacations. There were swimming lessons. There were jobs for me and writing projects and holidays to prepare for. And I went to the grocery store. A lot.
And that new scrapbook was kept in that Rubbermaid bin. And it passed the purging cuts of cleaning, organizing, and three moves. Two of them interstate.
I would get to it. I would get to it someday.
I kept mental track of where it was. In the bin labeled “Baby Books and Memories.” It was on the mental to-do list of the hundreds of things I’d like to get to someday. But in real life, I have a hard time remembering to make haircut appointments far enough in advance — and then finding the time between drop offs and pick ups and errands to actually get to them. And I still go to the grocery store a lot.
And all of a sudden, the baby from that first baby book is 14 and going into high school next year.
On Sunday night, a look of panic washed over Madeline’s face (as she stared weirdly at Snapchat). It had been spring break and I had repeatedly asked her all week if there were any projects she needed to work on or things to do for school. Nothing, of course. It was all done! When I asked what was going on, she nonchalantly told me (at 5:00 on Sunday) that she needed a scrapbook and scrapbook paper and inserts for Monday morning. A group project. Of course, the other person was supposed to get it. And through a maze of Snapchats, it was decided that it didn’t happen and Madeline was now in charge of getting it. The truth lies somewhere in Snapchat. Mothers of teenagers know these kinds of situations make us drink wine. And sometimes vodka.
The riot act was read. “You need to be more prepared. You need to think about these things when I ask you. We were out and about a million times this week and easily could have grabbed the stuff. And now everything is closed. Goddamit! Hobby Lobby isn’t even open on Sundays! Are you sure you are being honest about who was supposed to get it in the first place? You are just going to need to figure something else out.”
And my mind went to the basement storage area. In the bins. The scrapbook that I intended for her. Bought almost ten years ago for my baby girl.
I went downstairs and found the bin in the unorganized mess of the third move. I took out the scrapbook and tore out the inscription written in pretty handwriting that I have lost somewhere in motherhood. I found all of the pink ribbons and trim and stickers and spare pages. I brought it upstairs and handed it to her and said “You are welcome. I just bailed you out.”
When we were driving to school the next morning, we were talking about why I needed to get the scrapbook in the first place. I explained that her baby book had been falling apart and I wanted to rebuild it for her. I explained that life got in the way and I had just never done it. She asked me if I was ever going to do it.
“Maybe once you are in college (me thinking about how reasonable that sounded, only four years away now). After I buy a new scrapbook and write a second inscription, I guess.”
The abandoned baby books. The breaking baby books. The blank baby books. That is real life. The scrapbook that I intended to make? That was pretend life. Pretty life.
I like to think that maybe we will have better memories of the broken baby book with things falling out of it and the story of the night I bailed her ass out for a group project in the 8th grade. I bought that scrapbook for her. Yes, I did.