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  • Writer's pictureGina Micek

Old-timey hobbies are new again with Covid lockdown

Letters the author received while abroad in the early 90s
Letters from Home 1992-1993

I took up scrapbooking as a creative means to tell the stories around my plethora of photos – back when cameras had real actual film in them as a matter of course.

I’d take my film reel to the local drugstore and wait what seemed like an extra-long time (like an hour or a week) to get the shots developed. Then they would end up in a pile in a drawer.

At some point in the late 90s, I discovered what was then a growing company called Creative Memories, based out of Minnesota. They distributed their wares through a network of consultants who made money selling products. I soon joined their ranks and my collection of scrapbook materials got out of hand quite quickly.

So did the number of projects I had going at any given time!

Some of the albums turned out to be nice works of art, others were more for show at the parties thrown to hawk products. I wasn’t particularly good at selling products and my business as it were, did not really turn a profit.

At some point, life and time got in the way of my scrapbooking and I canceled the business subscription. I’d move all the supplies with me from California to Minnesota in 2010. I never even had the time to look in the bags or pull-out the supplies (the ones I didn’t give away when trying to pare down my belongings for the move).

Creative Memories went through a bankruptcy and practically disappeared as the changing landscape of digital cameras, cellphones and social media hit their bottom-line.

Fast forward to 2020 and a pandemic changed the world forever. We were all stuck inside and my distractions like events, curling, festivals, get-togethers, and bars were all shut down or canceled.

I moved into my own apartment again in October 2019 after several years in a practically homeless state. It was nice to start organizing and decorating, really making a home. As a result, I unearthed my scrapbooks and supplies from a toppled over pile in the corner and put everything away in cabinets. I took the time to go through my old albums and laugh at some of the stories I wrote to go with the photos. You really should read about that scary encounter with hikers in the Grand Canyon!

My only regret from making fancy albums from my photo collection was that I couldn’t easily scan the photos to share on TBT (Throwback Thursday) on social media. Still, I was looking for creative outlets now that I was home all the time. Could I get back into this old hobby?

That is exactly what I did. I started with one of my unfinished, 10-year-old projects. Another blast from the past was the collection of handwritten letters I received while on my Junior Year Abroad program at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. Other than physical photos, we also used to write on paper as the main form of communication, especially long-distance. We used stamps.

One night, I grabbed the album pieces, letters, and cards and just started adding them to blank pages with the occasional colorful decoration or sticker.

I found it relaxing and entertaining to read through the letters. I remembered the rather singular focus I had on making friends with recalcitrant Brits and all the boys I liked from afar because I was too intimidated to do anything about them. The usual immaturity of a 19-year old who was not as sophisticated as her peers.

Not all the letters were happy ones though. I got into a vociferous argument with my cousin in Canada. And my folks were often preachy about my drinking at pubs or plans I had for the future. Sometimes my friends at school in Santa Cruz, California would use the opportunity of the long-distance letter to give me a detailed, TMI account of their boyfriends and family spats. My mother was in nursing school at the time, so I learned a lot about anatomy and bodily fluids.

Nevertheless, letters from my now deceased grandparents and the almost forgotten art of letter writing – including but not limited to drawings on envelopes and enclosed glitter -- are a part of my story and my history. The format is perhaps sadly gone the way of the Dodo bird and I’ll never relive my teens or college years, so it will be nice to page through the albums as I grow older.

I am still working on the last few months of that year. Next up, completing the (also 10-year plus old) album of my time as a grad student at the University of Miami. Now THAT is a story! One bonus, I discovered during this process -- Creative Memories was in fact not dead, just reformatted. I can get supplies and carry on the tradition of scrapbooking.

If curling at the Saint Paul Curling Club does get canceled due to Covid in the fall, I can see I will be keeping myself busy on my projects.

#scrapobooking #personalhistory #photos #photoalbums #stories #journey #memories #creativememories #cameras #storytelling #authenticity #fun #hobbies #Covid19 #lockdown #stufftodo

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