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A Birthday Photo Book

Updated: Oct 16, 2022

Dear Hanky,

It’s October 15th 2022, your birthday. It’s 2:45 a.m. in the morning and I can’t sleep. I’m sitting in the living room with all of the lights out except for the glow of my laptop, writing, thinking about you, our life together. I can hear our baby boy cooing from his crib across the kitchen. Probably soon to wake you up for a middle of the night feeding.

I’ve never been good at buying presents. I’m usually a last minute gift giver at best. This year for your birthday I wasn’t much better. I had some ideas you had given me, but with how busy work has been and all that has been going on in our lives, I never gave myself time to look for those ideas. Instead I remembered how you enjoyed looking through old photo albums.

Recently we had a garage sale and you found one of my old albums. You asked if it was ok for you to look in it. We found ourselves sitting, looking, reminiscing. Well, mostly me. Pointing at pictures and people, telling stories. It reminded me how special photo albums were to me too. How nothing on social media will ever be able to take the place of a real photo, a real page with that clear plastic film covering a set of photos that take you back to a place, to a story. So I decided that’s what I would get you for your birthday. Instead of buying you something you may use once or twice, or something that would probably end up on a shelf in our closet, in a drawer, or back in next years yard sale, I would put together an album that would forever be a piece of our story together, up to this day. Your birthday.

I shared this idea with our daughter Annabelle. I had her send me some photos from her phone to add to it. I spent the next few nights and mornings before work and during my lunch breaks digging up photos. I decided I would have them printed at Walgreens in Lewisburg. I would buy an album there and stuff the pictures inside and voila, a great birthday present. I went to their website to upload the pictures and have them printed the way I had done before in the past and noticed they had picture books. I had seen something like this before but never looked into it myself. I realized it’s a book similar to a photo album, instead of the film sleeves the pictures would be printed on the actual pages, and you could add text and artwork. Of course I went down the rabbit hole of trying to put one together. In the process I realized how neat it was. Being somewhat of a photographer and filmmaker these days this was a very creative way to put together life in photos the way we did with photo albums. The problem was, I had waited to the last minute and I only had an afternoon to finish the design so I could get it printed and have for you the next morning for your actual birthday. The more I worked on the design the more I wanted it to have purpose, to have meaning, to make sense, unlike most of my old photo albums that were just a smattering of photos, usually just from a disposable camera or two, or a certain event or time in my life. But I also realized it didn’t matter too much, each picture would still have it’s own story that lived inside the moment that was captured. So instead, knowing the stories that lived in these pictures, I did my best. I got the album done and hit print at 10 a.m. yesterday. I received an email saying I would be notified when it was done.

About 2 o’clock I got the email. Thank goodness. I headed to Lewisburg to pick it up. I was excited to see it go from a screen on a computer to holding it in my hands, to see what it actually looked and felt like. To see if what I seen on the screen came across the same. It did. Even better when your holding it in your hands. It’s not quite the same as the old photo albums, but it’s still special in it’s own way.

Half way through the album I noticed 4 of the pages were the same. I thought, “oh no, in a hurry I messed up the book and duplicated a page!” Luckily I pulled the guy over working at the photo shop and showed him the problem. He checked on his computer and noticed it was his error, not mine and he could fix it pretty easy. While he fixed it I found you a birthday card. It’s a pretty special card too. It was the second one I picked up. You know when you find that card that says exactly what you want to say, but even better than you could have said it. That was the one. I almost forgot the bag and the smushy white paper as I walked out of the isle, but I didn’t. I was on my game. It was all about you. I was thinking of what you might say as I watched you flip the pages of the album. I was playing it all out in my mind of how it might go, trying to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I wanted it to be special, because your special, to me, to us.

I sat in my truck in the parking lot and packed the bag with the album and the smushy white paper. I pulled out the card and wrote I love you on the bottom with my signature. I put the card in the bag and the bag behind my seat and headed home, thinking about you.

That was about 12 hours ago and I’m still thinking about you. How much you mean to me, how lucky I am to have you in my life, in our lives. You’re such a great wife to me.

I can’t help but think about where I was in my life 5 or 6 years ago. A broken man. Lost with no future, no hope and no where to turn. Struggling with alcoholism over and over. I couldn’t have imagined in a thousand years I would be here, now, with you in this house you’ve made a home, with our three children you’re such a good mother to, pursuing a passion I never knew I had with you beside me the whole way encouraging me to keep going every time I doubt myself, making me want to be a better man, better father, better husband and most of all believing in me.

There was a time in my life I thought I knew what love was, what marriage was, I even thought I knew what my future might look like, but I know now I had no idea. As I get older I spend more time trying to figure out what life is, what we’re supposed to make of it, what it all really means and how to seek out what God wants of me here on this earth.

You’ve taught me what real love looks like, you’ve shown me what a real loving marriage can be, and you’ve helped me realize what life is all about and I’m so thankful for you. I hope you like you’re photo book.

Happy birthday my love.

I love you more,

Papa Bear

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