Old Stories for a New Year


Long before I became so obsessed with photography, before I had a digital camera,  I used to write – all the time – stories, journal entries, Christmas letters, lengthy recaps of my single days and the wacky dates that were part of that time in my life. I told my stories in letters rather than pixels. Today I spent hours scrolling through archived backup drives looking for a story I wanted to submit to a true life story publisher. I tried searching with every word I could think of that might help me find this elusive piece.
I found everything but. Instead I found a great memory about being asked by my niece Logan (at 5 years old) for the most specific barrettes in the world with 5 colors (I believe) that needed to be placed in a very specific order. From September until Christmas I looked for them everywhere…unsuccessfully. I rationalized that she’d probably forgotten the months’-old request. Nope – in March she asked — “Remember when I asked you about those barrettes?” Dang – the curse of a super bright kid is her ability to remember just about everything.
I admitted to Logan that I couldn’t find them. It crushed me to think this would be the first time I’d disappoint her.  Not for something so trivial – I couldn’t let her down, not yet. She still needed to think I was the answer to at least some wishes.
So I told her I would make them. Logan matter of factly stated “there is no way you could make them.” What?!?! Just because I have no real craft skills and no idea how I am going to pull this off?!?!?  I became determined to prove her wrong.
First some intense craft store reconnaissance trying to figure out how, out of what, I could possibly make these things (this was WAY before Pinterest and Etsy. People these days just have it too easy.)   Fimo clay,  silk flowers, pipe cleaners something would work but not those.
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Seriously who could ever be willing to disappoint these kids

The only thing that seemed possible was homemade, hand sewn felt flower barrettes. I purchased dozens of sheets of felt in just the right colors. And then it was endless hours with breaking needles and pierced skin because they couldn’t be just for her – I had to make them for all the little girls I loved very much (and there was a pack of 5)  Logan, Sloan, Meaghan, Krystal,  and even baby Sarah. Each barrette had to be as different as the girls themselves. Hours and hours punching needles through layered felt, that seem to push back. Dawn broke on Easter morning. I’d pulled an all nighter and still wasn’t done. Dinner was at 2 and I barely made it with my little treasures. But I did make it.
I’d forgotten all about that little adventure despite the needle pricked fingers and thumbs that both hurt and made my skin catch on silky materials for days. What a treasure to remember that.
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The New Bongo eating the Christmas tree. Photo by Alison Colby-Campbell

Looking for that other story seemed as arduous as looking for those barrettes, but the search was so interesting. I even found a fully fleshed out Christmas story I’d written inspired by a giant stuffed animal I’d owned but that had kind of gotten adopted by Logan and her twin Sloan. Its name was Bongo a full decade before Bongo Bunny came into our lives, and until now I didn’t even remember that was the gorilla’s name.  I actually still like the story and perhaps with the amazing talents of stepdaughter Nissi to provide illustrations, the story has some real potential. Maybe an animated holiday special is in the making.
Back to that story I was searching for – Christmas seemed the way to go. I vaguely remembered that I’d included the story in a Christmas letter but had no idea when. Well I found an old file and got a chance to revisit all those Christmas letters back to the year 2000. I got to see the first year Jon was part of a letter….the year best friend animals came into and out of my life. When people came into and out of my life. It was wonderful.
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I’ve been happily trapped by my cameras for sometime

I stopped writing Christmas letters several years back, but seeing them again, I loved reliving the memories of a life that whizzes by so quickly my faulty mind can’t keep track. I realize that those letters were far more valuable to me than they ever were to the recipients. I am inspired to write again. This time about 2016 in review. It was a year of more challenges than Jon and I had ever experienced before, but spoiler alert – we all made it out alive.
Hours later, the earliest Christmas letter I’d found was from the year 2000, you remember Y2K don’t you? That was the year I wrote the story I was looking for. It needs some work, but it has the makings of a very strong submission in my humble opinion. I’ll keep you posted

(c)Alison Colby-Campbell

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