Saturday, June 11, 2011

Moving Forward, Not On

For more than 12 years, the most visible area of my closet has been dedicated to one task: the storage of uncompleted Creative Memories albums, along with acid-free paper, a variety of exotic paper cutters, acid-free pens and pencils in a rainbow of shades, acid-free stickers corresponding to just about any occasion, and a host of other scrapbooking accessories.

For over a decade, they have been my shelves of guilt.

Daily, as I selected from dwindling array of shoes (chasing kids will decimate the finest of shoe collections), I was reminded of my parental neglect as it pertained to all things photographic. As I selected a work outfit (home-bound outfits are always workout clothes, easy and not in the closet), when I looked up, I would see perfectly stacked plastic bins, each containing each child's photographs, awards and artwork--the very items that were supposed to be encased in those lovely Creative Memories albums stored with my shoes.

I started with the right intentions. With the birth of my firstborn, I set out not only to be the perfect parent, but also the ultimate historian, cataloguing her perfect upbringing. I invested in tools that would transform acid-free, survive-for-decades-or-at-least-the-lifespan-of-said-child paper into perfect concentric circles, that, when perfectly assembled, would look like a pistachio-spumoni-vanilla layered ice cream cone, complemented with circular-cut photos of my child's smiling face affixed upon each scoop.

I purchased acid-free albums into which I carefully documented everything from each of my ultrasound appointments (side note: as the years progress, they look more like ink blot tests than fetuses to me), to all of her firsts, seconds, thirds, and so-on. As parents of multiple children can attest, my first-born has the lion's share of albums. I believe, on current count, she is the proud owner of at least 10, including one devoted entirely to her Kindergarten year and one devoted to teaching her her ABC's solely through pictures of her family and her pets.

My second-born currently owns five albums, including his personalized ABC album, but no Kindergarten-devoted tome.

My third has none. No, wait. In a weekend of extreme guilt and desperation, I recall that I whipped up the ABC album.

Since then, I have diligently compiled all photographic evidence into lovely stackable plastic containers (Thanks, Target, for your co-dependent support!) and have purchased, on random vulnerable occasions (like trips to the Orange County Fair, where I've seen an entire booth devoted to Creative Memories) materials to keep my guilt trip on track.

That is, until yesterday. I am not sure if it was an epiphany, a deep need to Spring clean, or a sudden and comprehensive revulsion of Creative Memories hoarding. Twelve years of materials were moved to my dining room table, along with every photo container. My goal: Everything in the bins goes into an album. Anything left over goes to eBay (the materials, not the photos). It could take me five weeks or five months, but I see a financial upside in my future.

What am I going to do with all of that newly opened up space? Return it to its original designation: a home for my shoes. And in my most Carrie Bradshaw of moments, I carefully dusted the shelves and lovingly placed my tallest, most impossibly non-mom shoes (five-inches of peep-toe, sling-back creme perfection) to get things started.

At that moment, I admired how far I have traveled, both as a parent and as a person. My kids and I have walked together for 15+ years. Now, they're traveling their down uniquely singular paths, and they no longer need me to hold their hands. My days carrying baby wipes and Goldfish crackers in my purse are long gone. My days of having time for new adventures lie ahead.

Now, when I walk into my closet, I don't feel guilty about what I didn't accomplish; I feel elated about the days to come. From volunteering for my daughter's marching band, to spending time at my son's daycamp, to attending events that have nothing at all to do with any of my children, I will be both well-heeled and happy.

Eventually those albums in my dining room will be filled with memories. But, starting today, my closet will be filled with the opportunity to make many more.

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