by Ruth Dawkins
I’ve always been a paper hoarder.
As a child, and even as a teenager, I’d spend all my pocket money on magazines and then disappear into my room for hours, to cut them up and create collages for the covers of my school books or my journal. I spent a fortune on pretty notebooks, and each night I would fill the pages with images and quotes that reflected the mood I was in.
When I left home and started university, my scrapbooking stopped. I continued to buy dozens of magazines, but instead of cutting them up and keeping a personal scrapbook, I started to stick the pictures onto corkboards on my dorm room wall instead. My collages became less about what I was actually interested in, and more about the image of myself I wanted to project to others.
Later on, caught up in the happy but busy whirlpool of working life and marriage, I abandoned almost all creative activities. I could just about manage to read a book on the commute to work, but drawing, journaling, poetry and scrapbooking all fell by the wayside.
Then came motherhood.
In the early days there was no space for creativity. It was all about naps and feeding and laundry. But then my son turned one, and then he turned two, and then three. He started to discover the joy that comes from creating, and in doing so let me rediscover the same.
Tom was always a neat little boy. He thought that painting and play dough caused too much mess, that they took too long to set up, and that there was too much potential for spills.
He also thought that scrapbooking was perfect.
“Cut, stick, glue!” he would shout at me with glee. “Cut, stick, glue, Mama! Cut, stick glue!” He would follow me around the house brandishing a glue stick until I gave in and sat down with him at the table, a tower of magazines in front of us.
It was a lovely thing to do together. It was a valuable insight into the things that make him tick, and an easy way for him to communicate to me what he was interested in.
We started off with travel magazines, so for a while it seemed that the only things he would cut out were scenes of pretty places – cherry blossom in Japan, beaches in Australia, clear night skies in Iceland. But then he also started to take an interest in animals, then food, and then vehicles. Sometimes he would choose a picture because he liked a particular colour or pattern, or because he thought a woman’s face looked kind.
The odd juxtapositions would often make me laugh, especially when we moved on from the travel magazines and started to cut up the supplements from weekend newspapers. The choice of words and pictures available to him expanded hugely, and he took full advantage. One page of his scrapbook might include a wheelbarrow, the entrance hall to the British museum, and a picture of Barack Obama smiling. Another page might have a banner from an Occupy demonstration, a pink Jimmy Choo and an old Roberts Radio.
Our scrapbooking was also a wonderful way of building his vocabulary. Sometimes he would ask me to go through the book, writing the word beside the picture. Zebra. Bikini. Chevrolet. It meant that he learned a lot of odd and unusual words quite early on, and also that he started to differentiate between similar things. Instead of just writing ‘digger’, he would ask me to write whether it was an excavator or a backhoe loader.
My son is now nearly six. He goes to school five days a week, and his weekends are a whirlwind of parties and playdates. Sitting with his mama to cut up magazines and fill up scrapbooks is not such an exciting activity these days. But every so often – on a rainy day in the school holidays, or a Sunday afternoon when there are no good movies on – he will haul out his old craft box and wave a glue stick in my face.
“Have you got any old magazines?” he’ll ask, with a hopeful expression.
And of course, I always do.
There is always time to cut, stick, glue.
Ruth Dawkins is a Scot currently living in Hobart, Tasmania, with her husband and five year old son. She started DorkyMum in 2011 – when she was still living in Edinburgh – as a creative outlet that she could fit around her life as a stay at home parent.