by Debbie Hodge
“I want to go home to the dull old town, with the shaded street, and the open square, and the hill, and the flats, and the house I love, and the paths I know — I want to go home.” — Paul Kester
place shapes character
The places we come from, the places we’ve traveled through, and the places we long to visit all inform who we are. How many of you have had the very longing described in the opening quote here? When you experience this kind of longing for a place, the place itself takes on associations and triggers feelings.
Writers and filmmakers understand this connection between place and character, often creating a story setting with such power it becomes a character itself. Think of 1920s Long Island in The Great Gatsby. Its geography and society inform the characters’ actions–both those who’ve lived there all their lives and the newcomer Gatsby.
When I want to plumb my own thoughts on the places in my life, past and present, I often turn to the poem “First Year” by Irish poet Eavan Boland that begins:
It was in our first home–
our damp, upstairs, one-year eyrie–
above a tree-lined area
nearer the city.
That first stanza can carry me immediately to a “garden” apartment in Silver Springs, MD (my first adult home away from my parents) and from there I’m recalling the furniture, the deck, the view of the parking lot below it, and even the stories. The ending to this poem drives home this poet’s belief in the impact place has on character (and even the relationships that a character is capable of).
Where is the soul of a marriage?
Because I am writing this
not to recall our lives,
but to imagine them,
I will say it is
in the first gifts of place:
the steep inclines
and country silences
of your boyhood,
the orange-faced narcissi
and the whole length of the
strengthening our embrace.
Many of my favorite scrapbook pages are those I’ve created as my own nod to the places in my early years. Here are several ideas for scrapbooking your childhood places and getting at the “essence” of those locations.
scrapbook your childhood home
“Been There” (above) and “What You Know First” (below) are both about my childhood home–a topic I scrapbook again and again. On “What You Know First” I used photos from over the last several years. My journaling tells a brief history of my family’s history with this home as well as what it means to me today.
scrapbook your childhood community
Celeste Smith included photos of four spots in her childhood community on “Scotia, New York.” Her journaling adds details of each that recall her activities at these locations. Notice that her journaled details are a combination of facts (The library was a “rabbit warren of old rooms”) and what the place meant to her (“The library opened up a world of books to me”). When you combine these two aspects of a place you create a strong evocation of it even for those of use who have never been there.
scrapbook the “now” of a childhood place
My parents still live in my childhood home so I get to spend time there several times a year. I truly love being there, and with “Its Charm” I photographed and wrote about the aspects of it that charm me. Do you spend time at a childhood place? How is it for you? Does it still charm? Do you have different feelings? Scrapbook them with your own photos or photos found online.
highlight one element that represents a childhood place for you
The “Hydrangeas” on Amy Mallory’s page were an aspect of visiting her grandparents’ home that she treasured. On this page Amy writes about her history with his location, using the hydrangeas as a recurring element in her story as it moves through the years. Is there a story about a place you want to tell and is there some element of that place that you could thread through the story?
scrapbook a place you loved to visit in your childhood
When your family piled in the car on a Sunday afternoon where did you go? Whose homes did you visit frequently? What images and memories have stayed with you?Celeste Smith scrapbooked the charms of her grandparents’ back yard on “Take Note.” Notice she’s got just one photo – of a family gathering in the yard. It’s through her journaling of physical details and remembered activities that the essence of this place is revealed.
Take a minute right now to jot down page ideas this article inspired. Have you already scrapbooked your childhood places? Link us up in the comments. Do you feel newly inspired to scrapbook a childhood place? Tell us your plans and come back and link your layouts.