March 3, 2011


Yesterday I participated in a research study exploring if and how having young children has an influence on childhood memories. The study includes non-mothers, expectant mothers and current mothers of small children, asking them to recall memories from under the age of five. It was an interesting experience to say the least.

First the interviewer gave me 4 minutes to recall as many childhood memories as I could. Do you know how hard it is to recall memories from when you were less than five years old? It is tough. There was plenty of quiet time in that four minutes. Though I was able to recall a few – I remember falling off a slide in the park and being left at swimming pool for lessons but not wanting to stay (perhaps the trauma made those stand out!). I also recalled lots of fun things too, mostly playing outside in the sunshine - in an snow igloo, in the garden, at a swimming hole, and often with my sister.

After that, I was asked to say how old I was at the time of the memory and rate the vividness of the memory using a scale they provided. Needless to say the clarity of my memories was usually ‘very vague’. I was three to five years old for crying out loud!

Participating in the study reminded me of how glad I am that I scrapbook. It reminded me how fleeting memories are. Often it feels like the moment will be forever etched in your mind, yet before you know it time passes by and the memory dulls a little more with each new moment. I know my memories of our Europe vacation in 2005 are like that. The big details are all there in my mind – our favourite places, our favourite experiences – but the little things that made those places and experiences special slowly disappear. And, in another 5 or 6 years, those details will be less clear than they are today. Fortunately, I have a scrapbook from that trip that captures our favourite memories on paper and tells the story of that trip. Anytime I want to revisit those moments I can, without having to rely on the recesses of my mind.

For me scrapbooking is about exactly that - preserving those stories and moments that make up our lives, both for my own personal reflection now and for sharing with family and friends as I age. I know I would love to have a journal or scrapbook that tells the story of my great-grandparents' life. How did they meet? What was their wedding day like? What did they serve their family for dinners? Where did they travel? Who were their friends? What were their routines? I can only imagine how different their life was from mine. And I know my life today will be drastically different than that of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

So, photograph, journal, scrapbook, blog. However you do it, capture the moments before they become a very vague fleeting memory from your past where all you know is you were wearing a red snowsuit having fun in the snow. Thirty years from now, you’ll be glad you did.

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