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SUBURBAN DIARY

Scrapbook yes, scrapbooking no

Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World: just the thing for a scrapbook. (REINHOLD MATAY/ASSOCIATED PRESS/file)

Scrapbook, a lovely noun connoting faded photos, swim team ribbons, and sweet nostalgia, is now used freely as a verb. A verb that conjures images of suburban women chatting around a large table, supplies scattered about while they crop photos, affix stickers, and write pithy sayings to accompany each piece of memorabilia preserved for posterity. Scrapbooking aficionados often call themselves "scrappers" and many enjoy scrapping en masse. The widespread appeal of this phenomenon baffles me.

Scrapbooking is everywhere. There are magazines and books on the subject. There is even a television show about it, which I watched one time simply out of sheer disbelief. Craft and discount stores now have entire aisles devoted to scrapbooking.

It seems my old method of sitting down biannually with five photo albums and a shoe box full of pictures no longer cuts it. When my boys grow up and reveal their childhood photo albums to their girlfriends, I wonder if they will be embarrassed that there are no 3-D Mickey Mouse stickers next to their picture in front of Cinderella's Castle. No surfboards, sunglasses, or sand in a bag to accompany the beach photos. No quotes from Thoreau to lend deeper meaning to the family camping trip to Maine.

Following a recent trip to Disney World, compliments of my parents, my sister and I were at a loss to think of a proper thank-you gift. We finally agreed that a scrapbook would be a great memento of the trip. With my sister assuring me I was really just making a scrapbook, rather than scrapbooking, I agreed to take the assignment.

When I sheepishly mentioned my plan to my sister-in-law, she graciously took me under her wing and slid me her limited bag of supplies. She is not a scrapper, but did have some of the requisite goods and a limited knowledge of the craft.

A few days later, a friend, knowing I might need a little help, offered to accompany me to the craft store to procure the remainder of the necessary supplies.

At the store, I was faced with two full aisles of scrapbooking materials -- books, cardstock (heavy duty paper in pretty colors, for all you nonscrappers), stickers, special scissors and knives, templates, tool kits, quote books.

Upon leaving the store, I had the urge to down a whiskey to counterbalance the act of purchasing scrapbooking supplies on a Friday night. But since I don't drink whiskey, I settled for a raspberry martini, which took the edge right off my uncomfortable foray into the world of scrapbooking.

I waited to start the scrapbook until I had two good hours free so that I could wrap it up in one session. Ha! It took me no less than 45 minutes to organize the photos, pick out the mats for the cover of the book, measure and cut the mats several times, and stick one photo on with a couple of quotes. Not to mention my neck and hand muscles were cramped from all the minute handiwork with the scissors and adhesive.

I must say the finished one-page product is lovely, but at this rate it will take me several weeks to complete the book.

What have I learned from my experience? I have a new respect for the time, creativity and actual work it takes to make the modern-day scrapbook. This project also confirms my belief that I will never be a scrapper.

My lofty reason is that scrapbooking is another example of the trend toward suburban conformity. Our houses, our restaurants, our cars, our clothes, our hair, and now our scrapbooks have a sameness to them. Sure, the photos are different and there are countless ways to differentiate each scrapbook, but they all share a certain look.

The practical reason is that scrapbooking highlights my inadequacies in the craft department, takes too long, and makes my fingers and my neck ache.

Maybe I will suffer through it to commemorate the important family rites of passage -- milestone birthdays, graduations or engagements. But you definitely won't catch me cropping, templating, and applying adhesive on a regular basis.

It's back to the shoe box for me.

Lana McAuliffe is a resident of Hopkinton.

If you would like to share a slice of suburban life, e-mail your essay (under 700 words, please) to Steve Maas, maas@globe.com.

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