The scrapbooks of our lives

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature

It is by far the lamest, most simplistic scrapbook you will never see.

I say “never” because the scrapbook titled “Our Best Summer Ever” isn’t something I display on the coffee table or leave out on the hutch for family and friends to browse.

First, it is a true, old-school scrapbook: Brown fake-leather covered pasteboard cover with tan construction-paper insides, held together with flimsy rivets.

The front has the word “Scrapbook” burnt into the cover, but we have covered up part of the word with our own title: 1988 Our Best Summer Ever is written in was called “puffy paint” back in the day, light green and mostly peeled off.

The scrapbook is filled with mementos of the summer of 1988, the first summer I was a stay-at-home mom. It does an OK job of chronicling the things we did that summer with ticket stubs, programs and trinkets, not many photos.

Sometimes a youthful hand has written “fun” or “good” in a pre-kindergarten or rising third-grader handwriting on one of the pages.

The history behind the scrapbook is that I had quit work to stay at home with the children for a while. I left full-time employment in mid-May, right before then 8-year-old Trey finished his third-grade year at Blue Grass Elementary School.

I took the kids out of day care and after-school care, and we began our lives as a one-income family. Summer was going to be glorious: long, empty days to fill doing whatever we wanted to do. Dollywood was 2-years-old. The pool was nearby and open every day. Gran, my mother, was a mere five-hour drive down Interstate 40. We had our family beach trip planned, but, other than that, the summer was our oyster and pearls were waiting.

The boys and I did have a great time that summer, but it was nothing like the storybook summer I envisioned, hence the rather lame scrapbook. Money was tighter with one income, and there were still family obligations – like laundry and grocery shopping and house cleaning – to work into our lives.

It was also very humbling for me to learn that an 8-year-old and almost 5-year-old really preferred to play with their friends rather than their mother. They wanted to go to the pool, the park, the library, even Dollywood on the schedule that had previously been set by their day care center so that their friends would be there!

We worked in some things that had been harder to find time for when I worked full-time, like some Mommy and Me lunches and short weekend trips to the mountains. They got more of that all-important do-nothing, down time. This was pre-Xbox, and we had already saved Princess Toadstool from Bowser, so Nintendo wasn’t an obsession. I heard my fill of “I’m bored,” as well, but the summer still went by pretty fast.

Grandson King is ready for summer and thinking about what games he and Gigi will play next.

I thought at the time that Our Best Summer Ever was the first of many lazy summers with months of fun to plan. In truth, life got almost as busy with sports, camps, part-time work and family obligations in the years that followed that I often wondered how I ever had time to work 40-plus hours a week. That summer, lame scrapbook and all, helped us recharge our batteries, remind ourselves what was important and strengthen family bonds.

Fast-forward to this week, where I am spending a few days in Nashville with 3-year-old grandson King, including picking him up on his last day of “school” (Mother’s Day Out). He has his own ideas for Our Best Summer Ever, even if it isn’t for the whole summer. It involves constant playing, as only a 3-year-old can. There are trains to line up, turtle puppets to wake up and a playhouse with a monster on the roof who needs to be chased away.  He will come home with me for a short Gigi and Granddaddy Camp next week. There is no doubt he will keep us on our toes, as he is already admonishing me to “Stop touching your phone, Gigi.”

I plan to enjoy every minute. We may even make a lame scrapbook.


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