“Roses are red
Violets are green
I’m really sorry I hit my brother
But he was being mean.”
Kids not only say the darndest things, they write them, too. Whether this poetry springs out of creative writing exercises in the schools, or in HEARTSONGS, HOPE THROUGH HEARTSONGS and JOURNEY THROUGH HEARTSONGS 13-year-old now-deceased-but-never-forgotten writer Mattie J.T. Stepanek’s case, out of special circumstances, degenerative muscular dystrophy, that bring forth a remarkable gift, the rhymes can easily be lost through time, moving, throwing away of school papers, or just simply forgotten.
While our children’s poetry may not become best-selling books and CDs (Stepanek teamed up with young country star Billy Gilman to produce a CD), those sweet or questioning verses of childhood and angry, angsty teenage songs bring pleasure, joy and comfort. They are as much a part of history as official family records. How many of us wish we had saved our poems form clutter, neglect, forgetfulness, or the (we hope) well-intentioned suggestions of parents that “You just aren’t a poet”—or even a parent throwing away our written longings? You can bet Mattie Stepanek’s mom would never throw away his first poems!
Whether we have the gift to become a poet or not, whether or not our children are Emily Dickinsons, those scribblings and typings are part of our life, our thoughts, our feelings. They are gifts in themselves, and loving children everywhere have the creativity to give them as presents. Mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, are moved beyond words when they receive a card on construction paper, or even computer-created by a junior Bill Gates or Charles Schulz. That card may contain a poem about “The Greatest Dad in the World.” Do you want to throw it away and keep all the store-bought greetings you take for granted? It may even move your spouse to wrestle with love poems, and you want to save those too.
The answer is scrapbooking. Poetry on paper is perfect for preserving in the pages of scrapbooks. You may want to create a scrapbook for family poems and created cards, or several scrapbooks if you have more than one poet in the family. You can organize the family scrapbooks by writer, poem subject (Dad, mom, the family dog or cat) or by occasions: birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, graduations, new homes, weddings, births, and so forth. Or you can include poems in scrapbooks you’ve created to record these occasions, scrapbooks that contain decorations, invitations, announcements, pressed flowers, and so forth.
Some tips for successful poem preserving:
* While it’s tempting to include the yellowing paper your son wrote his first poem on, consider recopying it on pretty paper and include it. You can include the original paper if you wish, but do so beside the typed or handwritten version.
Do the same if a poem has smudges or spills.
* If you haven’t dated a poem by your child, look at the writing and compare it to different ages. Always list your child’s age.
* Always date family poems, either on paper or by making a note on a printed label or in handwriting.
* If you can’t guess when a family poem was written, look at the occasion. If it was your 50th birthday or a particular wedding anniversary, you know the date (unless your memory is like a man’s!)
* When you’ve started scrapbooking family poems, always choose heavy paper for future poems, or paper that holds up well.
* If the poem goes with a photo, include the original even if the image of the photo is on the paper the poem is printed on. Or include a photo from the event or a photo of the family member the poem is about for an illustrated poem!
* Consider typing up a page that includes sample quotes from family poems, a kind of “Best Of the Jones Family” list.
* Finally, if anyone in your family doesn’t mind hearing their recorded voice, record a CD or cassette of the poems and include it with the scrapbook.
You may never get your poems read nationwide, but you and your family will treasure the memories they bring. So start writing, and happy scrapbooking!