What should my adulthood scrapbook look like?

When I was a kid, my mother religiously kept scrapbooks for me. The opening pages started with congratulatory cards she received from people when she was expecting me, followed by a now-yellowed newspaper birth announcement that bore a double-chinned, very wrinkled and angry-looking newborn likeness of me.

I spent a lot of time during my childhood and later years studying that photo, trying to reconcile it with the image of who I thought myself to be. Would anyone have guessed the helpless infant pictured would have developed into someone spunky and resilient? Or go from wordless to never shutting up? Were there any clues to an emerging wicked sense of humor or warning signs that the yet-unfocused eyes would someday host a curmudgeonly outlook on life?

Flipping through the pages of my scrapbooks, I marveled at the many wonders contained: not just annual school photos, but other snapshots of me with trophy fish, 4-H projects and various animals, ranging from dogs to horses to cattle. And of course, chickens.

Mostly, I was playing sports and opening presents. And I seemed to be blowing out birthday cake candles every other page. No wonder the time has flown by so quickly. The photos, including those from two proms and senior pictures that never looked like me (even at the time!), were held in place by black lick-and-stick photo corners. If we ever need a sample of my mother’s DNA, that’s where we’ll go!

In other photo albums, encased within wretched magnetic-sheeted pages, were programs from piano recitals and band concerts, track ribbons, patches from championship sports teams, old report cards, ACT scores and college acceptance letters.

I was amazed at many things. Mostly my mother’s diligence in chronicling the first third of my life. She’d collect her children’s memorabilia throughout the school year and spend her summers off from teaching school assembling it in scrapbooks. She covered all my developmental bases, 0-18.

Had I thought to do so, I could have used my mom’s extensive scrapbook documentation as a portfolio showcasing my potential to potential employers. All signs back then pointed to my meeting with success in adulthood. At the very least, they could have landed me a job as a tester at a birthday cake candle factory.

So what the heck happened? Where have all the ribbons and medals and promising prom dates gone? Did I inhale too much smoke at my birthday parties or accidentally eat poisonous candle wax? How many times am I going to have to start over and pay yet another set of life dues, accompanied by overdue notices, complete with interest?

Viewing my birth photo again, I decided that I have never looked more like my birth announcement photo than I do today: wrinkly, jowly and angry. Only God knows why, but I seem to be back where I started. Well not exactly where I started out. At least I’m not pooping my pants and screaming inconsolably. Only in my head.

I miss being a helpless burden on others. While I fought to earn my independence from the grown-ups and to chart my own life’s course, having someone else take care of me and clean up my (less stinky but equally disgusting) messes is sounding pretty good these days. I want to be the backseat driver in my parents’ car, not the insurer and maintainer of my own.

Do other people feel this way, or is it just me? As if that would make the truth any easier to take. Quite honestly, I feel more alone and behind than when I started in life. Actually, I’m further behind because I no longer have caregivers. It’s up to me to figure out and finance life’s parameters and answers. I want my mommy, but it’s too late. Time has reversed our caregiving roles.

So I’ll keep childishly fantasizing about creating a new, adult scrapbook for myself: one that sometimes features a slick series of self-indulgent selfies. It’s just my throat’s too dry from silently screaming to navigate the lick-and-stick photo corners. Won’t someone please do it for me? I’ll give you a medal and a slice of birthday cake in compensation. And take your picture.


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