This weekend, I went to a retreat held by my Creative Memories Consultant, at a conference center about 90 minutes from here.
I did 147 pages in two days. No pictures, sorry — not mine to show.
Granted, they were very plain (minimal borders, only a small amount of journaling), but still. I did about 8 pages per hour for every hour that I was scrapping all weekend.
This summer, one of my dearest friends (she’s been a mentor, director, colleague, and friend since I was in high school) asked me to put her mother’s houseful of photos into albums for her, and she’d pay me for it and buy all of the supplies, too. Connie’s mom is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and is losing touch. Connie wanted to get the pictures out of frames and disjointed magnetic albums and get them into a chronological format that might help her mom hold onto her memories for a little longer. Some of these photos dated back to the 1890s, so it was going to be a huge project. We decided on a colorscheme, and Connie and I figured out all of the supplies we’d need for me to complete this project.
So when I quit being a Creative Memories Consultant this spring, I placed one last (huge) order for Connie’s project, and as soon as her mom’s pictures arrived from Phoenix she just brought them here rather than taking them to her mom’s new apartment. Six moving boxes FULL of pictures in frames arrived, plus six full magnetic albums of photographs (most of them with dates on the backs or edges of the pictures, thankfully). Connie came over one night this summer and we separated all of the framed photos into family groups and then organized them by approximate date, identifying the people in the pictures with post-it notes. Connie also took the most disorganized magnetic album over to her mom’s one afternoon and quizzed her about who was in the pictures, so I had all of those notes, too. I color-coded each of the people in direct lineage to Rhea, and every time that person appeared on a page, their color would be on the page in the border design. Unless Rhea was on the page, in which case her color trumped everyone else’s. This sounds complicated, but it actually made the process a lot faster because there was little-to-no decision making for me. William’s on the page? I need green. These are Connie’s pictures? I need purple. Much easier than looking at black and white pictures and trying to decide on a color scheme for each set of pictures.
I’ve been chipping at this project a little at a time all summer, but I was having trouble getting motivated because I was trying not to be too decorative so it wasn’t super interesting/stimulating for me to DO — I didn’t want the borders and paper to distract from the pictures at all because Connie’s mom is easily overwhelmed.
I had gotten through Rhea’s college years (she graduated in 1948) before I went to the retreat, and I had made a goal for myself to get 90 more pages done over the weekend (on a normal weekend, working hard, but with home distractions, I could get 25-30 pages done on this project).
As I finished each magnetic album, I’d make a lot of noise and throw it away, and people around me would cheer. I watched one of my best friends be born, go through school (complete with scratching the face off of a girl in her sixth grade class picture — little things like this amused me all the way through the books because it was fun doing the detective work and then asking Connie about the things I had discovered through the pictures…); I saw her graduate from high school, get married, and have babies of her own. I learned a tremendous amount about her family, and I was able to reconstruct her family tree this morning from pictures and notes only.
The end got closer and closer, and even though I took relief projects of my own so I could get a break from heritage photos and simple borders, I was obsessed. I wanted to get this project DONE so I could give it to Connie. My grandmother and my aunt both were taken by Alzheimer’s — it’s near and dear to my heart, so this was a gift to their memories as well, I think.
Anyway. I called Connie this morning from the retreat center to tell her I was done (147 pages/sides done this weekend, and 210 in the books total). She came over — with her two sons and her mother — this evening, to get the books. I cried, she cried, and Rhea said, “That’s ME!” every time she turned a page. She kept saying, “This is a great book! Have you been paid for this? You need to be paid for this.”
Connie was much more generous to me than I was expecting her to be. MUCH more — because this was something I was willing to do for a friend ANYway. She’s been that kind of a friend for me — and this was something I could do for her.
And I’m so excited that maybe I’ve helped her mom retain some of herself as the disease erodes more of her mind. That in itself was better pay than the money will ever be.