I look at the floor around me, what had been my black and white tile kitchen floor earlier that morning had now turned into a sea of 20 years worth of memories. Photos, tickets and notes flooded the space surrounding me. Our anniversary was fast approaching and I had decided to take it upon myself to hand make my present this year, I’d never been all that creative but I wanted to do something special so I was willing to give it a go. This year I’d be putting together a scrapbook for him, hoping to fill each page with our memories, like a story book made just for us.
The first struggle had been choosing the right book to use. I had stood in the shop vacantly staring at the shelves for what had felt like hours, but after carefully considering every option in front of me, I settled for a simple black with gold edges and thick cream pages. It was smart, I knew he’d like it.
I turn to the first page, it’s a blank canvas staring up at me, ready to be ornamented with the sea around me. I pick up the first photo, I smile a smile that reaches my ears and creases my eyes. It’s the day that him and I had first met, we were seated at a friends garden table, the sun giving the pair of us a squint. He’s holding a beer and I’m holding my water, I wasn’t drinking that day, we were only 14 and knew my mother would be furious if I did. I was wearing my simple white bikini. Back then I definitely hadn’t thought that I’d looked anything special in it, if anything I had felt rather displeased with how it looked on me. However, looking back now I realise that I really was rather pretty. He was in his swimming trunks, the bright blue ones. His dark auburn mess of hair sitting on his head and the sun had invited freckles onto the bridge of his nose. He looked divine.
We had been introduced to each other through friends, I’d felt nervous and giddy the second I met him, my crush being pretty much instant. Despite my worries that he wouldn’t even be interested in a conversation with me, we got along soon enough and before I knew it we were even sneaking glances at each other over the table, I remember the way I had been fighting back a smile every time I caught him looking. I place it down on the page, smoothing over it with the palm of my hand, next to it I write ‘The moment I knew’.
Now for another page, on this one I was placing not only a photo but also a ticket. It was a cinema ticket from our first date, the ink had faded until it was barely legible and the edges had curled but none the less I’d kept it all these years. The picture was just of him, in it he’s smiling from ear to ear and in his hands there was enough popcorn to feed half the cinema. I remember getting ready, spending hours agonising over the perfect outfit, in the end I’d chosen my baby blue dress with little butterflies on it, I loved that dress and it turned out that he did too. As soon as he saw me he told me how beautiful he thought I looked, instantly making me feel as though the butterflies from my dress had made their way into my tummy, fluttering around, causing me to blush and lose all idea of what to say next.
Once we sat down he’d held my hand, I don’t think I could even begin to tell you what happened in the movie itself, I had been so focused on the fact I was with him, focusing on chewing quietly and my own appearance that I’d almost forgotten why I was even there. Again, I place the picture down onto the page, overlapping the ticket next to it, ensuring everything was stuck down firmly I write ‘The ticket to my heart’ just below.
I smile to myself, the present was coming together so perfectly, much better than I’d imagined it would. I gathered the contents for the next page, I had not only a photo but some dark red rose petals, they were in fact almost black in colour. They had once been a vibrant red and had of course also once been attached to real roses but they had been tainted by time and this is what remained, nevertheless they were still the most wonderful flowers in the world to me. They were from the day that he had made me his. We’d planned to go for dinner that evening and I had expected to meet him there like usual, but he had other ideas. I’d heard my door bell ring that evening as I got ready. Naturally I had assumed that it had nothing to do with me and continued to cautiously apply the lipstick that I’d found in my mothers bedroom. That was until I came down and there he was, sat in my living room next to my parents and clutching the biggest bouquet that I had ever seen. He had stood up looking all handsome and nervous in his suit. His eyes shifting between mine, the floor and my parents. He looked at my mum, then my dad and they all smiled, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, I didn’t really expect him to ever meet my parents yet alone be sharing private looks with them in front of me. He then handed me the roses and finally after what felt like forever he asked the question that I’d been waiting months to hear, my heart did cartwheels and I of course said yes. Aware of the fact my parents were still watching however, I just hugged him, waiting until we had left for anything else.
He was my first boyfriend, I felt as though I was starring in one of the romcoms that I had so obsessively watched growing up. The photo was one my parents had taken, it was of us in the living room, we looked adorably awkward. I placed the petals and the photo down, sliding things across and around until I was satisfied with where they sat on the page, sticking them all down I then write ‘I still prefer daisies’. I giggled to myself as I wrote this next to the petals, I did still prefer daisies. It was only 10 years later that I’d had the heart to tell him that my favourite flowers were daisies opposed to roses, but that’s what made them so special, the only roses I had ever been given and the only ones I ever wanted.
I look around me, still drowning in the sea, waves of memories crashing over me. On this page I only had a small photo to place, it’s of the two of us stood in front of a red brick house, it had white panel windows and a small honey suckle vine climbing it, I’m clutching a set of keys and he’s pointing to the door. Finally, after a year of saving we had successfully placed down the first month’s rent in our new home, it was small but it was perfect to us. That first night we hadn’t bothered to properly unpack and so had made a makeshift bed with blankets and pillows that we’d pulled out of the boxes that were piled up, invading the entirety of our hallway, we had laughed so much that our chests ached as we tried to settle down, I had smiled to myself all night that night, and every night spent with him after that.
That little home of ours held so many precious memories, of summers with friends, nights at home on the sofa, of fall outs and make ups, it was the first stepping stone into what would be the rest of our lives together. I wrote next to the photo ‘You feel like home’, I drew a few hearts here and there, they were a little uneven but if he took his glasses off they’d look alright.
For the next page I picked out a piece of paper, a photo and a few flecks of confetti from the slowly shrinking piles around me. All trinkets from the day I said “I do”. Upon the paper was our wedding vows, I read them again my eyes tracing over the words scrawled on the paper, I remember the nerves in my chest as I’d recited them, the shake in my voice. I remember way that we hadn’t dared to tear our eyes away from each other’s until the words had stopped and our lips had met. It had felt like our first and last kiss all at once, passionate but with love not lust, our energies meeting, crashing and colliding into one another. It was only then, in that moment that I realised my family had still never seen us kiss, my heart giggled, I knew then that I’d never, ever forget that feeling.
The photo was of us as we left the church, joy radiating from every part of the image, in the air around floated the confetti that had been scattered by our friends and family, the delicate white petals contrasting beautifully against the bright blue sky, only for it to land years later on the page in front of me. I twist my ring around my finger as I look at my work, it will never get old, remembering that we have each other in the way we do. On this page I simply write ‘I do’.
I turn to the next page, my fingers ever so slightly sticky with PVA. It was here that I had a very precious photo to place down, it was not a picture of me and him but of him and her, our beautiful baby girl. It was a picture that I’d taken as I had watched them from the doorway of our living room, the two most important people in my world swirling and swaying around like flames against the wind. Our favourite song playing in the background. Her little feet had followed his footsteps and the innocent screams and giggles that she had let out were like a song of their own, a perfect symphony and one I could listen to for a lifetime. She was and still is an absolute image of us, flecks of gold hidden within her amber eyes and you could see her dimples when she smiled, just like her dad. She had my hair though, her wild blonde curls had bounced around her face as they danced, framing her perfection. He had caught my eye as I continued to watch them, nothing had been said but I heard him , I love you too. Next to the image I wrote, ‘My love doubles’.
Over the next few pages I added in more photos, filling each page with memories of holidays and date nights. First Christmas’s and birthdays. Tickets and tokens took a stand in any gaps and by the end my pen had near run dry. I looked through the pages, delighted with my hard work, the sea around me now contained within the most precious vessel. I elaborately drew our names on the front in golden ink to match the border and placed it gently down in the drawer, there it could stay until it was time.
Days had passed since my little project and our 20 year anniversary had arrived. We woke up, stretching as we made our way out of bed just like we had on that first day in our little home. We made breakfast together that morning, it was eggs on toast, nothing too fancy. We spoke as we ate and sipped on our coffee, he had his black, I did not. We decided upon giving each other our presents once we’d finished, I was eager to show him my hard work.
He went first, handing me a small navy box, with great care I slid off the lid and peeked inside, it was a necklace with little gold pendant sitting on the chain. I looked closer and beamed, it was a delicate little daisy, I went instantly to put it on, my fingers fumbling clumsily over the clasp in my excitement. He stood behind me, gently brushed my hair aside and fastened the clasp. Looking at me at tenderly he smiled, I smiled too, it was perfect. Then came my turn, I proudly handed him the scrapbook, he grinned at me as he began turning slowly through the pages, his eyes flicking between the photos. That afternoon we had taken our time going through each page together and reminiscing over each memory. We’d remembered endless stories and had cracked old jokes that never really did get old. Laughs were let out and tears were shed, it was a truly beautiful moment and undoubtedly another memory to add to our treasured collection.
As we neared the end and we ran out of filled pages he looked at me, a confused expression crossing his face, he asked as to why there were blank pages at the back of the book and to that I simply explained “Because my love, I never want to stop making memories with you.”, and from that day on, every photo and every mark of us found a home upon the pages of a scrapbook that told the story of our lives.