‘Congratulations on your baby girl’

My mother moved in with me in 2005. (She moved out in 2006. It’s not an experiment we’ll likely try again anytime soon — we’re too much alike. It only worked because our work hours were completely opposite.) Her house in rural Missouri needed extensive repairs — a former contractor was supposed to be working on supporting the house, and instead, somehow, cut the center beam. The house was literally falling in; there were cracks in the walls to prove it. So while that was being fixed, they needed the heavy furniture, including an upright piano, moved out of the house. So she moved in with me in Indiana. (Luckily, I guess, I’d bought a split-level house. I’m still not sure what I was thinking then, but I think it was a “must buy property” phase everyone seems to go through in their 20s.)

While packing things to be moved, which included everything in her house, she wanted to go through stuff in the garage. The garage is attached to the house, but sits on a concrete slab; the rest of the house does not, and has a crawl space under it. Perfect for mice and snakes to get into and find their way indoors. Ah, the charms of country life.

The garage is full of … stuff. There are some boxes of things that just didn’t have a home anywhere else. There are two lawn mowers — I think only one works. There are metal cabinets that were taken out of another house she had owned and renovated that were dumped in the garage; they are not in a place to be useful. There is a freezer, the only item that was used somewhat regularly. There is furniture and several boxes that my brother moved out of his house when he left college to join the Air Force. There’s a doll house that Eric, my father, built for my sister and me when I was in the first grade. (That doll house was really from Santa, and darn near ruined Santa Claus for me. We lived in a different house, in Linneus, Mo., and mine was the only bedroom in the basement. Come to think of it, that?s the last time I had my own room until I left the dorms in college. Anyway, Eric would hide the doll house in the back of the basement — part of it was unfinished — and at night would bring it out to the family room to work on it. Right past my bedroom. I saw him carry it past several times. I even asked him what he was building. He told me it was a dog house. Which made some sense to a first-grader — we did have a dog, but I think she already had a dog house. I managed to cling to the belief of Santa Claus until about the third grade.) And the garage also had a few boxes of files and papers taken from an old file cabinet.

In one of those boxes, I found “welcome home” and “congratulations” cards from when I was born, as well as first-birthday cards and baby shower invitations. I was a very popular girl. The cards and letters are in pretty good shape, and I took them out of the garage, put them in another box and moved them to Indiana.

And then back to Missouri when I took a job in St. Louis.

I know I have a baby book somewhere (I’m the oldest, and parents are usually most ambitious about baby books and such with their first-born), but these cards and letters didn’t make the book. Some of the people I know. Some I at least recognize the names. There are even a couple of letters from my great-grandmother, Lura Smith. (Ever tried a genealogy search on a Smith? It’s not easy.)

So my question is, how do I put those cards and letters in a scrapbook or album so they can actually be read and still saved?