Around Bebe’s eightieth birthday, she began scrapbooking. Not as a second career or anything, just as a way to pass the time when tennis wasn’t on TV. Just as a way to revisit the memories that didn’t fit on her bulletin board. Just as a way to use those scissors that make for fun borders on an otherwise normal snapshot. She used those scissors a lot.
When I turned 21, Bebe presented me with a thick, three-inch, three-ring binder filled with zig-zag bordered photos: jagged memories from my life glued to card stock. There was even a page dedicated to my high school boyfriend. Although our relationship had faltered, his cherub face and curly locks still found a home in the book. Because a scrapbook is nothing without a boyfriend or a prom.
Last Christmas, Bebe took me page by page through her own scrapbook. All 85 years.
In her book there are lots of men. As we turn the pages, faded black-and-whites of high school friends become photos of Bebe and my grandfather until their divorce. There are newer photos featuring more recent man friends, ones I’ve heard of, if only casually. Near the book’s end is a photo from the early ’90s of Bebe and a man on a cruise.
“What’s his name, Bebe?” I ask. “Oh, him? I don’t remember,” she replies without regard. It doesn’t bother her that she can’t recall his name. “It was just a week-long trip to The Bahamas.”
When we close the book, Bebe finds a loose photo to show. But this one isn’t of my grandfather or any other contemporary companion.
“This is Raymond,” Bebe says. “Isn’t he handsome?”
In her hands she holds a black-and-white snapshot of young Raymond standing next to a glowing Bebe of 16. No jagged edges or glue marks scar this photo; this photo is not to be anonymously bound to the pages of a book. This one is to be held and called by name.