ServietteThis St. Patrick’s paper napkin from a package my mother bought in 1942 started me on a collection which is a very satisfying hobby.

As a child:

  • In the northern Ontario town of Cochrane (pop. 3,000) I was the preacher’s kid who collected paper napkins (called serviettes in Canada.)
  • My mother’s friends and the neighbors on our street saw me coming and invited me in for a cookie while they rummaged through their sideboards (buffets) to see what they could find.
  • My father, when he traveled out-of-town, did not have to worry or spend money on a token to bring home. He just had to stuff his napkin in his pocket to thrill this little girl.
  •  Solitary hours spent counting, categorizing, analyzing, distinguishing and admiring the many geometric patterns and drawings of nature, weddings and  seasonal celebrations brought me joy.
  • My world vision expanded: Japanese napkins were made of rice paper; transparent layers of luminous, floating, pastel floral designs clung together to make them absorbent. British serviettes, if they had them, were stiff and hand painted. The United States had drive-in restaurants.
  • Signs of the times resonated, with British flags and Churchillian bulldogs to support the war effort.
  • Gossipy secrets spilled out: I never would have suspected that Mr. and Mrs. X played golf, went to girly bars and drank cocktails when they were in Florida, far away from wintry Cochrane and my father’s sermons.

As an author, mother and grandmother

  • My collection of paper napkins helped me recall the emotions and events of my youth when I wrote our family’s memoir
  • Writing names and dates of occasions such as “my high school graduation party, 1950” on the back destroyed the beauty of the serviette but preserved and stimulated more priceless memories
  • An easel with a collage of vintage wedding and floral paper napkins under plastic was mounted in our garden for our daughter’s wedding reception and admired by the guests
  • The 500 napkins still are in good shape, in spite of much handling. A selection was exhibited at the local library at Thanksgiving time.
  • As a living, growing hobby, I hope it passes along to someone with the receptive genes.

Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void,  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church on Amazon,  Goodreads or my website.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

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