I went ice skating a few days before Christmas at Rockefeller Center when I was 22. This was a tough Christmas as it was the first one since my mom went into the nursing home.
I spent my first Christmas downstate with Tom and his family when I was 24; we were engaged and finally got to spend the day together rather than some days before or after. His parents bought a real tree that year because I had never had a real tree growing up; they’ve bought a real tree two years in a row now, and I think they’re going for three!
Both of these are sentimental stories; the present one is really cool, the ornament one is frustratingly sad.
Favorite present: Before they divorced and times got tough, my parents showered me with presents. Like, I am embarrassed by how much they used to get me for birthdays and Christmas. Being an only child, I honestly think I would have turned out to be a super selfish bee-yotch if certain events had never taken place. Kind of weird to think about…
Anyways, one year, I think when I was 5 or 6, I unwrapped my presents like any kid does: as soon as one was unwrapped and registered as really neat and “can’t wait to play with!”, I was ready to unwrap the next.
My dad had been videotaping all morning, something that wasn’t unusual. I still have this home video, but it’s a VHS so I can’t even begin to try to show you.
When all three of us had unwrapped everything, my dad asked me if I had gotten everything I asked for.
I said, “Yeah,” kind of unconvincingly.
“You got all that stuff and you still weren’t satisfied?!” my now 26-year-old self yells.
I remember my dad then looked over toward our recliner chair and furrowed his brow. In the video, he says, “Wait a minute…what is that?”
Concerned, I turn my head to look at the recliner and ask, “What is what?”
“Go look behind the recliner; there’s something behind it.”
To my bewilderment, there was a large wrapped box behind the recliner. I was so excited and had no idea what it could be, but it was huge so it must be something good!
My parents encourage me to open it and, wouldn’t you know, it was the Life Size Barbie I had been coveting! My dad had pulled the trick from A Christmas Story with the present, and it was amazing and unforgettable.
The next clip on this particular home video is of me dancing in the matching ballerina costume that came with the Barbie; I was already about 8 inches taller than this thing, so the outfit was a little snug.
Favorite ornament: This is a hard one because it makes me remember that when I moved out of my house and got it ready to be sold 2 years ago, I forgot to go through the hall closet where we kept all of the holiday decorations. Old halloween costumes, Easter and Thanksgiving knick-knacks, our fake Christmas tree, all of the lights neatly organized, and all of our Christmas decorations. All of it, gone.
When I reached my early teens, I became the Christmas tree decorator. Every year, I would choose a color theme for our tree, and only use decorations that were those colors. I also realized that in order to make the fake tree look somewhat realistic, each individual branch had to be “fluffed”, a concept that my parents never seemed to get. I remember that you could always see the middle pole and the branches looked flat, like a cupcake stand if you know what I mean.
We had decorations that my mom had bought back when she was single and living on her own. We had some Buffalo Bills decorations and a couple metal ones that were personalized: one looked like an angel and said “Holly” and had my birthdate on it and the other was a cat in a stocking that said “Jack” (my cat who passed away in 2011). We also had a few decorations that I made back in elementary school.
And now I have no idea where any of them are. Maybe they ended up getting sold when my aunt had a yard sale to get rid of all that was left in our house (I was still in school and couldn’t go back up to do it). Maybe they were overlooked and the new owner ended up going through them. Maybe they just ended up going straight in a dumpster.
I’ll never know. And it breaks my heart. I won’t have those to decorate when Tom and I have our own house and own tree. Our kids won’t ever see the decorations that I made when I was their age. And it’s my fault.
I know they’re only material possessions and we can buy our own and our kids will make their own someday. I don’t mean to be dramatic but it just frustrates me that I didn’t even think about going through that closet. We were so pressed for time and couldn’t fit anything else in the truck when I packed it up with my stuff to bring down to NYC.
So as of right now, I have 3 decorations: 2 are from when we got engaged (thanks Casey and Juhasz family!) and the other is a set of 4 snowmen from our friend Courtney. We haven’t had our own tree since living together because we spend Christmas with my in-laws (and there’s not really any room for a tree!) so it’s okay. There’s plenty of time to make our own decoration collection and tie memories to them.
Do you remember your favorite present and/or have a favorite ornament?
August 16 marks my paper anniversary with Tom, so I thought what better way to celebrate than to create a scrapbook? I mean, that’s, like, ALL paper!
Unlike a traditional scrapbook, however, I want to make something a little less perfect. I have a fear of commitment when it comes to such artistic feats, so I tend to get discouraged in the planning process and never follow through. Or even start it…
Which is why I have not actually attached anything to our wedding scrapbook.
Oh, I figured out what I wanted on each page.
I even gathered special details like an extra save-the-date, invitation, a balloon from one of my bridal showers, etc.
And believe me, I got pictures developed.
But I got spooked because I didn’t have any other decorative scrapbook doodads and didn’t want to screw it up forever. Pinterest sets the bar way high.
I have a fear of commitment to attach things to paper, but I vowed my life to another human being. Go figure.
I also don’t want to spend a fortune on this. Scrapbooking gets freaking expensive with all the excess crap you buy into. You want the extra pizzazz of colored paper. And, oh, won’t that lace detailed paper make the pictures pop and give the page texture? And you just need those gold letters in every font. But you might as well buy the silver ones too because what if you get sick of gold? And all the stickers!!!!!
The memories are priceless but putting them in a book is nightmarishly pricey.
Anyways, my first inspiration for this came from (surprise, surprise) a YouTube video. A couple that I watch (Colleen Ballinger AKA Miranda Sings and Joshua Evans) recently got married and, throughout their honeymoon, worked on a scrapbook. So instead of waiting until after they came home, they brought the journal, pens/markers, and a polaroid camera to fill the scrapbook as they went.
Here’s a video about it, if you’re interested to see little bits of their scrapbook. I’ve set the video to start from where she’s talking about the scrapbook. You’re welcome.
Brilliant and adorable!!! Except, we’re almost a year out from our honeymoon and documenting it as we go is out of the question.
But why not start now, catch up to the present, and then we can document as we go through the rest of our marriage?! In a perfect world, I will stick to this and fill up multiple journals/scrapbooks. I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to just focus on getting this one started!
Okay, so I bought a journal from Walgreens for about $10; nothing super fancy, but I like the gold accent. Unlike a full-size scrapbook, this journal causes me less anxiety when I think about filling it and possibly messing up. Cool!
While doing research on how to go about starting something like this, I found some Pinterest pins about smashbooks. According to The Realistic Mama, a smashbook is “a delightfully simplified way to chronicle life’s special moments without the time commitment usually required by scrapbooking.” Here’s her step-by-step guide on creating a smashbook. She made a travel smashbook in the post and I like how she used maps for backgrounds!
Perfect! I don’t like all the pressure that comes with planning out, arranging, rearranging, and finally settling on what could potentially be a horrible looking scrapbook spread. I’ll do all that for this journal-thing, but the pages are smaller and I just feel like it’s less of a commitment. There’s that word again.
This book is going to chronicle Tom’s and my relationship, from when we first met until more recent events. I have been journaling since middle school, so luckily I had the last 3 journals I’ve filled to help me map out important dates and events. Facebook was super helpful in keeping track of certain events too, giving me ideas on what pictures I could use if I wanted to include a certain day. So I started the process of mapping out the chronology of the smashbook in my current journal.
Some events don’t have pictures attached to them (the day we first met, our first kiss, first official “I Love You”, etc), but those will just be written out with blurbs about how, when, and where it happened. I hope Tom will also take part in filling in blurbs. I know he’s self-conscious about his handwriting, but he is just a much a part of this relationship as I am. Although his memory quite frankly sucks, so I’m not so sure how that will work out.
Once I mapped out the timeline portion, I then went to Social Print Studio (formerly Prinstagram) to order mini prints. I have a bunch of full-size photos of special events, but I don’t want to fill up every single page with only one photo each. So I ordered 48 squares by selecting straight from my Instagram feed. Not all 48 are going into this book; some are for friends or just to remember other moments in time. Then I uploaded 116 from my computer to order mini-prints; this doesn’t limit you to stick with a certain set of dimensions, so it just takes your picture and shrinks it. Nothing is cut off haphazardly. Sounds great!
As of right now, that’s where I’m at. I just ordered the prints today, so they probably won’t arrive until next week. I also want to pop into Michaels while I’m in Long Island this coming week to check out stickers and maybe some pretty paper to give the pages some extra oomph. I don’t plan on going all out and spending a ton of money – that’s half of what I wanted to avoid in pursuing this less-fancy option!
Okay, so that’s it! Let me know if you’re a scrap/smashbooker and if you have any tips! And fingers crossed I get this project off the ground before I get cold feet!
So I went back home a couple weekends ago and, although it’s only been 2 months since I last visited, I was hit with a ton of emotions. I was flooded with so many memories of this house – the familiar sounds of the floorboards creaking, the smell of the hand soap, and sights of my baby pictures hanging on the walls (Tom says they look like I had a mullet. It’s called a half up-do with bangs, okay?).
I even went through some of our old pictures from when I was a youngin’ that are stored in boxes upstairs. I sifted through pictures of me with my parents, my friends, and relatives during birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, and other random times. There are tons of silly pictures; this one didn’t seem out of the ordinary at first. I mean, it’s just me learning to read and write with my Dad. Ha, nice 40, Dad. Anyways, looking through these, I started getting a little anxious.
You see, my mom has been in a nursing home for almost 3 years now. She was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis back when I was 9 years old, and it’s definitely progressed over the last 15 years. She is not considered a “resident” because she has not fully signed the remainder of her life (she’s only 60) and her possessions over to them. But I think it might happen soon.
We’ve talked about it here and there, trying to decide what to do and when to do it; most of the hesitation concerns her losing her independence, something she has prided herself on for as long as I can remember. It is also so that when I come home to visit and such, I have my own house to stay in.
Even though I have had a love-hate relationship with this house, it will still feel as though I’ve lost something or someone dear to me. Not loss in the sense that it’s a possession and I have to give it up, it’s more from the memories I have of being there. Sleepovers with friends; cooking with my mom; playing in the street as a kid with the boom box playing Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys for the whole street to hear (how did my neighbors not hate us as kids?).
Then there are the many complaints I had of it growing up. My basement has always been unfinished and I have never been in our attic because it’s more of a crawl space, so there wasn’t a cool lair to hang out in like some of my friends had. I will even miss the backyard, as minuscule as it is; it served its purpose when there was over a foot of snow and school was canceled.
The tough times pull at my heart as well – my room that became my solace whenever I was upset or wanted to be alone to read or play video games, the platform at the bottom of the stairs where I found my mom lying after she fell (that was the last time she ever tried going upstairs), and the nights spent alone sitting in the kitchen while she was in the nursing home and I was not working either of my two jobs.
I didn’t realize just how difficult this would be; for the past couple years, since selling the house became an actual possibility, I thought it would be exciting and a good idea to downsize and clean house of all these things that we don’t need. But now I am realizing that selling the house is the ultimate implication that mom has lost her independence. And that I am a grown up and need to make my own grown up life and home. And that’s devastating and scary as hell.
I mean she put so much work into keeping this house running even on her single-parent salary that eventually became monthly disability checks. And the nursing home will take every last cent of what she gets for the house. Not only that, but thinking about what to do with all of my and her belongings is super stressful. But let’s not go there; that’s a whole other can of worms.
Even though it may be another couple months or a year until the house is on the market, it’s unnerving thinking that this huge part of my life will be gone. And it will become someone else’s; maybe another kid will move in and grow up in my house and make their own memories like I did. Someone else’s birthday will be celebrated there every year. Maybe they’ll repaint my old room and closet like I did when I became a teenager. They’ll make it their own and it will change as they grow up.
Or maybe an older couple will move in and spend the remainder of their lives just sitting on the front porch, enjoying the breeze. Another family will be able to enjoy the beautiful tree in the front yard that blooms in the spring (although it seems to be gone within a couple days because it always ends up raining and then all the petals litter the ground).
Who knows? Either way, I know I have to let go and move on – I mean, I’m an adult right? I need to get on with life, not just live in the has-been moments. Although it is fun and comforting to reminisce sometimes, I can’t let myself grieve for the past. So here’s to looking forward to the future – moving on from this chapter, creating my own home with new memories, and enjoying every step of the way.