This Mum's marking milestones

Monica Scanlon shares a story of a much-loved Mum’s creative gift – one that is simple, yet so meaningful.

This Mum's marking milestones

Many years ago, on holiday in America, Elizabeth Harrison had a ‘light bulb’ moment.  Having always loved photos, she ventured into a scrapbook shop and from that moment, was hooked on the pleasure of scrapbooking.  


Her son Andrew said, “Mum loves scrapbooking because she loves, and is incredibly proud of, her family. Each photo she selects, artfully captions and beautifully displays, is a gift of love to her children and grandchildren.”  Andrew’s twin Mark said, “Mum has a naturally creative flair – her years working as a primary school teacher help. It goes further than that though. I believe that Mum hoped to share her early life with my father, and their many positive times, with her children.”  Elizabeth spends months working on each book. 


As a child, she spent a lot of time with her grandmother, who told her lots of stories. As she grew older, she wished she had recorded them, and so the scrapbooking process was inspired.


Elizabeth handwrote a book of memories for each of her five children. “I wanted my children to know what I was like before they knew me.”  The books include anecdotes about each child. She says she has a lovely family but they lead busy lives and sometimes there is no time to tell them important things.   The books can be read over and over.  


Younger daughter Amy said, “We’re a family of readers, so Mum really relishes the scope that scrapbooking provides to express her love for her family through meaningful words and photographs. Mum has always cherished memories above possessions, so scrapbooking is a great outlet for her creativity and her passions – family, travel and learning. Marking milestones really appeals to Mum. She’s a thoughtful person, well known for putting lots of effort into celebrating special family moments.”    


Older daughter Joanne recalls, “It was fun to read about ourselves as babies, toddlers and little kids since, unlike today’s children, we don’t have any video footage of ourselves at this age.”  Amy agrees, “I have thousands of photos of my kids, but they're almost all just on the computer - there is something very meaningful about a tangible collection of memories, and it’s nicer to pore over with the children than a slideshow on a laptop!”


In 2006, when her twin sons turned 40, Elizabeth began the tradition of presenting her children with a handcrafted scrapbook.  Joanne said, “The scrapbooks for our 40ths were Mum’s way of saying, ‘I’m so proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished’.”   Amy said, “I'm the youngest in the family, so still have a bit of a wait before my 40th, although Mum has joked about making some of it in advance as she'll be 80 by then - and still a bundle of energy, I'm sure.” 


In 2008, on the 20th anniversary of her husband Trevor’s death, Elizabeth gave each of her children a photo book (created online) about their Dad, including a special letter about him.  This was very precious as none of her children was able to enjoy an adult relationship with him.  It helped them to ‘know’ him in a way they imagined they would have, had he lived.  Andrew said, “These gifts have more poignancy because when Mum’s compiling them, she’s also providing a testament to the love shared by my parents. Dad died far too young, but Mum’s scrapbooking journey through time is proof of how that love is passed from one generation to the next.  I feel sadness too, for my mother, my siblings, and myself, and for Dad’s five children’s partners and his grandchildren, who didn’t have the chance to meet a truly exceptional man.” 


Elizabeth recalls handing over the books commemorating her husband, “It was an incredible feeling – they had no idea and the looks on their faces were so special.”


Mark said, “These books reveal the successes and challenges of family life. Striking facts often jump out at me when I reread them; for example, Mum and Dad only had two weeks’ notice that they were having twins!  Another whammy came soon afterwards when I was born very small and with club feet. Mum wasn't allowed to see me for three days and I was in hospital for six weeks before I could go home.”


Amy said, “The book’s very precious. Having lost Dad when I was seven, I appreciated Mum's care in filling in lots of gaps in my understanding of him as a person and of their relationship.”


When Elizabeth turned 70, her five children, their partners and older grandchildren put together a scrapbook that allowed them to express their thanks to her and tell a few funny stories.  Joanne says, “Our effort was nowhere near as beautiful as the ones Mum has put together but in terms of the time and love that we put into the words, photos and design, it was very much appreciated.”  Elizabeth treasures this book. 


Elizabeth’s 14 grandchildren range in age from 22 to two years old.  She’s keen to continue scrapbooking to ensure that the memories are kept alive for generations to come.  Her gift of such devotion will long be treasured by her descendants – and there’s an implicit invitation to the next generation to continue the tradition!


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