March 19, 2012
Photo albums rarely seem to have the right number of pages.
All of the old albums that I’ve seen from my grandmother, or DH’s grandparents, have exactly the right number of pages because they were bound by hand. Same with my wedding album — I inserted exactly as many pages as I needed into the book, and when I received some extras, I took the book apart and inserted more.
Most of the albums from my childhood have the right number of pages too, because my father (and later, I) spaced the photos out in such a way that they fit the album exactly. As an adult, I bought a 200-slot album for a trip that DH and I took; I had 205 photos to put into it, so I took out the 5 that were least worth keeping.
I’ve seen a few albums that didn’t have enough pages. A bunch of photos were arranged more densely on the last few pages than in the rest of the album, or a little stack of photos was stuck between the pages, loose.
I’ve seen some photo albums that have far too many blank pages at the end. Most of the albums that I have from adulthood are like this actually, because they are ongoing records of our life together: we have one album of photos of our friends from college through the present, one of family, one of the two of us… The advent of digital photography also has something to do with the blank pages, as very few photos have been printed and put into those albums since I got my first digital camera in 2002.
Many albums I’ve seen from other people, though, are not intended running records. They cover a specific event, or a specific time period. They seem to have bought an album that was too big. Or, conversely, they didn’t take enough photos to fill the pages. It feels… not quite right. Incomplete.
When my mother’s health started to turn and she first went into the hospital, I bought her a little album and printed out a bunch of photos of then-infant Burrito and Tamale so that she’d have something to look at while she was hospitalized. While I sat by her bedside, trying to catch the doctor during his once-a-day visits, I put all of the photos into the album in chronological order, complete with little Post-It flags to label each one: how old Burrito and Tamale were, who else is with them, what the photo depicts.
The last time I updated the album for my mother, Burrito and Tamale were 14 months old. There were 9 spots left in the album. I wondered if the next time I saw her I’d have to buy a second album, or maybe I’d move everything into a new larger album.
The next time I saw my mother, less than 3 months later, she was non-responsive and on the verge of death. I had some new print-worthy photos but there was no point in updating the album, which she would never look at again. She didn’t even have it — or anything but her purse — with her in the ICU, not having known when she was whisked to the hospital for the last time that she’d be staying there for weeks, and certainly not knowing that she’d never be coming out.
When I cleared out my mother’s home after her death, that album was one of the few things I took back with me.
Today, exactly one year later, those 9 pages remain blank. Not quite right. Incomplete.