Holding on to what’s important

Betsy PickleOpinion

I used to have a lot of friends who scrapbooked, but I don’t hear them talk about it much anymore. It almost seems as though scrapbooking has fallen off the map.

I consulted my old buddy Wikipedia, and sure enough, scrapbooking peaked in 2005-06, and since then sales of supplies have dropped precipitously. Digital technology has made inroads, for sure, both in documentation and presentation.

Shutterfly and other digital printing companies can help you turn your beach-vacation memories into a slick, bound book in a jiffy, and you don’t have to worry about making mistakes on your expensive acid-free pages.

Americans have never been great keepers of the past. Something newer and sexier comes along, and we chase it like hounds.

Architecture is a good example. Knoxville has razed so much history through the years, we’re lucky to have any pre-1970 buildings at all. It’s wonderful to have people like Jack Neely, Bob Booker, Bradley Reeves and Ron Faulkner to share stories, films and photos from the past through books, programs and Facebook posts.

I got into the cellphone game around 2000, and four phones later I’m still nowhere close to the current iPhone model. Mine does enough for me. When a phone costs as much as a mortgage payment, I’m not interested, but other people find them necessary. I was shocked today to discover that my phone now has a measure app (with a level!) and a magnifier app – must’ve snuck in when T-Mobile insisted on giving me an upgrade from the Sprint service I’d had since my very first boxy phone with a protruding antenna.

I still regret a deal I made in childhood, when my paternal grandmother gave me a coupon that let me exchange my original, hard-plastic Barbie with black, stiff hair for a brand-new bendable Barbie with shiny, long, brownish-blond hair. I was horrified as the cashier ripped the head off old Barbie and dropped it into one box and the carcass into another.

What trauma that was! A 7-year-old shouldn’t have to witness a beheading, even of a doll. And the deal wasn’t that great – if I’d saved from a birthday and a few report cards, I could have had both of them (to go along with Ken and Midge and the rest of the gang). That was a powerful lesson for me: Don’t be blinded by the new.

Am I simply resistant to change? Maybe. I’m also frugal, and I try to use things until they have nothing more to give. I also know that the appliances that came with my 1948-built house (which were probably added in the 1970s) lasted longer for me than the ones I eventually had to buy to replace them. Things just aren’t built to last anymore.

What about our scrapbooks of our lives? The personal digital books are great, but are they enough? Where do you put the concert-ticket stubs and wedding napkins and old restaurant matchbooks and programs from school plays where you were ninth-billed as the Irish seamstress? Have the rest of you already thrown them out?

I’m sure the professional organizers would say to toss them. And definitely toss the old, odd photographs that never made it into an album or a frame, and no one’s still around to identify half the people in them. No one going through my piles after I die is going to care about them, and I don’t think Cracker Barrel would be interested in them as decor.

Still, I hold on to them. And if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be able to use them to illustrate a random column, now would I?

Betsy Pickle is a veteran reporter and editor who occasionally likes to share her opinions with KnoxTNToday readers.

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