You Decorated My Life or Things My Mother Taught Me

The sap is running alert: As the holidays near, even those of us with hearts two sizes too small find pockets of warmth that sustain and help us with evolution.

Prior to the advent of so much instant communication, my mother was a letter writer extraordinaire. I recall how she and her out of town friends and relatives wrote back and forth religiously, catching each other up on the latest gossip, sorrows and joys.

Mom always said you have to send mail to get mail and she was right. There isn’t much I like better than finding a personal letter in my mailbox busy trying to break up the fight between all my bills.

Stemming from her avid letter writing, we got a ton of Christmas cards every year and Mom’s ingenuity on how to display them was put to the test. She hit on the idea one year of decorating the wall facing the entryway of the house with them and taped them all up.

Like a puzzle, first the ‘end pieces’ went up to form the outline and then the centre was filled in. She turned the cards into a Christmas tree that was pretty spectacular and became an annual tradition.

(I’ll save my memories of my Dad’s uncanny ability to find the worst tree in the forest and trudge home with it for another time.)

Looking at the beautiful snowy photos MellowLee posted on her blog (Vancouver never gets snow does it?) and reading comments made by Barbara* about snowflakes reminded me of something else my mother turned into a minor art form. Paper snowflakes.

From one year to the next, salvaged wrapping paper made a return engagement around the second week of December. Mom used it not only to wrap presents again but to cut out the most unusual and beautiful paper snowflakes which she then hung by thread from the living room ceiling.

I always pronounced them to look corny but I secretly loved them. Nobody else in my neighborhood had an indoor snowfall like this for the holidays and I think they may have been poorer for it.

My mistrust of winter can now resume although there is always a chance of intermittent happiness amid the drifts.

*check out Barbara's fantastic review of a play called The Dazzle. And vote for her blog!


mellowlee said...

I loved your paper snowflake story Dale :) I can just imagine them. It's snowing again!!

Anonymous said...

Those are lovely memories to cherish, Dale. One remark in particular brought up fond memories for me as well.

My mother also cut out paper snowflakes from wrapping paper but she would put them on the Christmas tree as ornaments hanging from thread. We were poor but we always had a beautiful tree for the holidays.

If you want to do some online paper-snowflake cutting yourself, go here:


The ever-helpful Zed :)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Awwww Dale! You are too sweet by far. People are going to start not believing about the two-sizes-too-small heart if you are not careful.

Your mom sure sounds like she had the right idea about Christmas, about celebrating and displaying the fruits of her friendships and not being afraid to make her own beauty. Right on, Dale's mom!

btw may I add you onto my blogroll? I've been meaning to ask you for ages.

Anonymous said...

Bedazzle that snowflake, baby!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think my favorite holiday traditions now are the ones I protested the most about as a kid. My parents hang mistletoe in the archway and my father always made a game out of catching us under it and giving us great big smacking kisses on the cheek. Even in front of (gasp!) friends and (double gasp!) boyfriends!

Now? I think it's charming and silly and quintessentially my darling family.

Coaster Punchman said...

I too have a few idyllic family memories from childhood, but I focus instad on the dysfunction. I find it more healing and it clears a lot of blockages.

But I'm glad for you nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

I used to love paper snowflakes. The most special were the ones made from metallic gold wrapping paper. I'd forgotten all about them.

Joe said...

Thanks for that interlude of good feeling, Dale. I wish I could've seen those paper snowflakes.

thetruthisthelight said...

Maybe that's why the Christmas card writing addiction is so rampant.Your mother had a good thing going on there and that's no 'bah humbug'! :P

jin said...

I totally forgot about paper snowflakes until I read this!

Hmmm....I have to make hundreds of 'cookie snowflakes' each year, does that count for something?

Anonymous said...

It's funny the different things that we have fond warm memories of and how creative our mothers were to bring us the festive feelings. Times that I had recounted fond memories to my mother, she would laugh and say that we were so poor, that was all she had in her power to do. It made her feel better, my having told her these things.

Anonymous said...

I admire your mom for her paper snowflake skill. They're not as easy as they look. I can imagine the house was quite pretty with them as decorations, whether or not your childhood self wanted to admit it :)

Will said...

I think I'm going to have an indoor snowfall after that sweet story Dale.

Mob said...

That story made me less anti-Christmas, which really takes some doing, congratulations, my heart-warming friend.

I too remember by mother being quite crafty and loving any project involving cutting and pasting. She was waay ahead of the curve on the scrapbooking trend, if she saw all the specialized stuff they have for it today, she'd have lost her damned mind.

Dale said...

Thanks MLee, the whole thing is your fault really, well, yours and Barbara's.

I bet your mother's weren't as nice as my mother's Zed so don't even try okay? We were so poor that... :-)

Although my mom is insane Barbara, every now and then she gave us a reason not to kill her while she slept. Good times. Add away my dear.

All is calm, all is sparking bright Tanya. Like your smile. What are those? Piano keys?

You nailed it Bre. My mom insisted on a real tree, I always thought a shiny silver one made more sense. What do I know? Now she has the artificial and I go for the real.

CP - stay tuned, it seems nearly every time I post something nice about the good old days, I find a way to muck it up with a dark memory too. I love balance!

What do snowflakes falling on a cello sound like PinkFluffy? Make some noise.

I'll see if I can scrounge a photo Bubs. Yer welcome!

I wish everyone sent Christmas cards and not just the cheap ones and that's the truth. The crap ones I just want to light on fire.

Mmmmm cookies Jin! How did the UPS thing work out for your cross border cookie shipment?

I should tell my Mom about it this Christmas Old Lady. If she doesn't piss me off, haha.

It's all true Gizmorox. I could never match her skill.

Ben, that is sad. Come over and we'll have a few drinks instead. Unless it turns out well and then I want credit and photos.

Three words for your Mom there Mob: Scrappity Doo Dah! They were pioneers I guess weren't they? Happy Xmas you crank.

Anonymous said...

great stories of the paper snowflakes and Dad finding the worst tree in the forest at Christmas. Your posts about childhood always has a really vivid-emotional quality to them that always make me remember them sometimes weeks later.

justacoolcat said...


Dale said...

Thanks Chancelucky, I'm glad you liked!

Have I tried your patience Dave?

jin said...

We had a bit of a change of plans...lol...it goes out this Monday, instead.

It gives me more time to put in a few extra special freebies for them! Yes, to tempt you even more...I include something special for each blogger...NO!...I don't mean nude pics of me...sheesh!
Dale you're such a perv.
Maybe that's why I like you!!!

SlayGirl said...

Dearest Dale,

This is Slaygirl. This is your Christmas card. Don't say I never gave you nothin'.
Best regards and the best to you in the new year,


P.s: Feel free to print this comment and put it on your wall. uh, or anywhere else you want that does not involve a bird cage.

Katie Schwartz said...

what a beautiful post, dale.

I feel a book is in order.

Anonymous said...

So I hope you cut out some snowflakes at the site I pointed you to.

I bet if you go there that my snowflakes will prove to be better than yours. :)

Dale said...

Sometimes you make is to hard to comment cleanly Jin. If you're going to keep showing off your sugar like that, you're going to attract the upright members of the blog community.

Dearest Slaygirl, your generosity of spirit and giving til it hurts everyone philosophy warms the cockles of my heart. And stuff.

Your book of Dale's 4 happy childhood memories should be available soon my dearest Katie.

Zed, I lashed out in anger when you were trying to just be the last letter of the Canadian alphabet. I love you, I honestly love you. It's on.

SlayGirl said...

"till it hurts everyone" Har, "cockles" Har har!

Dale said...

My aim is to get your Har Hars out Slaygirl. Cockles.

SlayGirl said...

HAR! Mission Accomplished:)

Dale said...