I bought Brenda Lee Reed’s Book, Easy-to-Make Decorative Paper Snowflakes, 14 years ago in a museum shop. It gets packed away with the Christmas decorations and lights, and fished out every December. I cut a few new ones each year, and carefully press the previous years’ models to the front window, using the tiniest slivers of tape.
I love paper snowflakes. Maybe the absence of real snowflakes in southern California attracted me to the idea of making them. Snow was always wildly exciting when I was a kid and I miss it sometimes, although I doubt if I’d enjoy it as much now—scraping it from the car or mincing along an icy sidewalk in terror of falling.
There wasn’t enough snow this day in 1969 to close the schools, but I was happy about the weather anyway.
I’m not artistic or craft-y. When Christopher was in elementary school and other mothers clustered to make centerpieces, scrapbooks, or hand-painted t-shirts as fundraising items, firing their glue guns and brandishing their paintbrushes, I’d beg off, accurately claiming that I am craft-impaired. I can, however wield a small, sharp scissors, and there’s something about cutting out these snowflakes and unfolding the scraps of lacy, symmetrical perfection that I enjoy. I’d love to visit the Snowflake Bentley museum in Vermont, dedicated to the man who was the first to photograph a single snow crystal in all its exquisite detail.
I store the paper snowflakes between the pages of a November 1999 issue of Cosmopolitan. I’m not a Cosmo girl. This issue mentioned my friend, Jeanie Bryson, and her famous father Dizzy Gillespie in an article about women born to celebrities who then fail to acknowledge their daughters’ existence. I read only the article about Jeanie in this issue, and passed on the other gushing, breathless fluff. But the thick magazine doubles as an excellent storage device for paper snowflakes and a sort of time capsule. Every year I tuck the snowflakes in between pages that warn about dating disasters or advise burning calories in salacious ways.
I don’t think Cosmo would run a piece about cutting paper snowflakes, so I’ll leave that off my list of possible freelance articles for 2014. Although I suppose I could pitch it from the angle that this old-fashioned craft can keep your mind off your worry, whether you’re preoccupied by a dating disaster, an indifferent father, or any of life’s losses and travails. Making the small, precise cuts invites another kind of reverie, about the hush of a snowy day when the sky fills with impossibly frail but beautiful things.