Last night I should have been writing.
Instead, I was scrapbooking.

I’ve loved photos for as long as I can remember. Looking at them, and taking them.

When I was about six years old, I collected cereal box tops to mail in for a free camera. It was a lime green, no-flash, sunlight-only, 110 mm box camera that had to be wound manually after every shot; and with it, I became my family’s primary photographer.

Snap. Crank, crank, crank. Snap. Crank, crank crank. Take to the photo center in the city. Mail away for 4-6 weeks. Hope that five or six of the 12 were “good ones.”

I was eventually gifted a self-winding camera, with–wait for it–night vision mode, just in time for the big scrapbooking fad to burst onto the scene. I became more dedicated than ever.

Ka-chunk. Whrrrr. Ka-chunk. Whrrr. Press rewind. Whrrr-Whrrr-Whrrr-Whrrr. Take to the photo center in the city. Pay the extra dollar for the fancy 1-Hour service, and the extra dollar for “doubles”. Hope that 15-20 of the 24 were “good ones.” Arrange one set into my dated and alphabetized photo box. Cut the second set into funky shapes, and glue them to florescent acid-free paper, and write captions under them with milky gel pens.

My wonderful husband got me my first digital camera when we were engaged, with an amazing 1 GB SD card. I was in heaven! He has kept me in cameras ever since.

By the time my babies came along, I had switched to digital scrapbooking. I made a large baby album for each of them, and an annual family album each year. A family yearbook of our adventures, even if those adventures were nothing more than a baby eating spaghetti for the first time.

I could never tell you exactly why I loved photos and scrapbooking so much, I just knew that it fed a part of my soul. I loved preserving moments and capturing memories that would be too soon forgotten. I also loved zooming in on the little things that other people missed. It sort of became a way of life.

Little did I know how much I would need that way of life.

When I formed the habit as a child of focusing on the small things and treasuring them, I had no idea that I would one day be a parent to a Special Needs child. I had no idea that he would live life on a completely different timeline than anyone else I had ever known. I had no idea how badly I would need to cling to the little things when the big things were so out of reach. I had no idea just how much I would celebrate every little thing. I had no idea that the little things would become the biggest and best things in my life.

The first time he called me “mom” at age four.
The first time he answered a question.
The first time he asked for something with words.
The first time he acknowledged his little brother.
And so many more.

Our family celebrates “the big little things” (as my favorite Autism blogger likes to call them) like other families celebrate winning soccer goals. The little things are big to us. The little things that others might miss, take our breath away. And it is so, so beautiful.

Recently, my boy has become very interested in photos. I always find him leafing through those scrapbooks and getting excited about them.

“He in the pool!” (He often speaks in third person.)
“He sit with Grandma!”
“He got a new stuffy!”

He is celebrating too. The big little things are his lifetime achievements. It touches me so deeply to see his little chest puff out with pride, and a crooked grin creep over his face.

A week ago, he took my hand and pulled me into the guest room. He had every one of those yearbooks spread out on the floor, from his birth to 2020.

“Mommy make a twenty-twenty-one?”
“You’d like me to make one for last year, Bud?” I asked.
“Yes. Mommy will make a twenty-twenty-one.”
“OK,” I promised.

Well, patience is not really his strong suit. He asked every day this past week if I was done yet.

“Mommy will make a twenty-twenty-one, RIGHT?”
“Mommy will print it.”
“Mommy… are you printing the twenty-twenty-one?”

So last night I sat down and finished the book I had started and abandoned months ago. My son stood right beside me, peering over my left shoulder. He gasped and smiled with each photo I added.

My love of little things has been passed on, and my heart is full.

© 2022 Ashley Lilley – First time commenting? Please read my Comment Policy.

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