Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Paper Chain


This is how I spent yesterday morning -- making a paper chain to string on the library Christmas holiday tree.

People who are more powerful and better paid than I decided that our annual tree, which usually arrives about a week before school ends in mid-December, would come earlier this year. They also thought it deserved better decorations than usual -- not just the standard store-bought plastic baubles, but also something library-specific.

My coworkers and I searched for libraryish ornaments online, but they are in surprisingly short supply. So we decided to make some out of an old book. The task fell to me, and because I wasn't very enthusiastic about trying anything complicated like origami stars or paper birds with wire legs, we decided I should make a simple chain garland.

We had recently discarded some old books, so I combed through those until I found one with mildly interesting pages -- an Ursula K. Le Guin novel that included music, poetry and drawings. The other librarians have teased me in the past because I'm so resistant to the idea of using books for crafts -- I mean, these are books, people, and tearing them apart seems sacrilegious. A coworker suggested we use a large, illustrated copy of Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," and I demurred. Somehow tearing the pages out of a Le Guin book didn't seem quite as terrible, though it still made me wince.

Making a paper chain, however, comes naturally to me. When I was around eighth and ninth grade, I made one each fall and hung it from the ceiling of my bedroom. Those chains had a link for every day in the school year, and on each link I wrote some silly message -- an expression, or a name, or just a drawing. I then cut off one link when I got home from school each day and transcribed the message into my daily journal. In that way I kept track of the school days ticking past, the chain getting shorter and shorter as summer approached.


Le Guin's book made an entertaining chain, with its maps, music and sketches of totemic animals. I couldn't help noticing the phrases on the link above. Is it inappropriate to have a Christmas decoration that refers to cat turds and a dog's penis?

Not exactly the holiday spirit, but then, this is middle school.

The tree itself arrived yesterday afternoon, and today we're having electricity supplied to the tree so we can plug in lights. Then I'll decorate it. I'm not sure how Le Guin would feel about the end result, but regardless, I'll be sure to share it with you.

7 comments:

37paddington said...

Your schoolboy paper chain tradition is fascinating! Where did you get the idea to do that?

Marty Damon said...

You were already a librarian in 8th grade with such a knack for order and documentation. The daily chain is fascinating- you know, it just occurred to me that might be a marketable idea!
I can just see a gift shop where these would be sold, next to the calendars. Get out there and make your fortune!

Ms. Moon said...

I'm with you on the "desecration" of books. But actually, I think the chain is a lovely thing and maybe Ms. Le Guin would get a chuckle out of it. Especially the dog penis thing.

Vivian said...

i love the idea!

Sharon Anck said...

I see some "strong beer" in there too all of which makes me wonder what that writing was about.
I'm fascinated by your childhood paper chain. That's very creative and literary.

The Bug said...

I'm already thinking about adapting your paper chain to some future event that I'm looking forward to - like a trip to the beach or something. Really cool!

And I think that the words on this chain are absolutely perfect for middle school :)

ellen abbott said...

I think she would be delighted. and I hope the kids spend some time checking out the chain. what a weird kid you were spending hours making a paper chain when school started. but I think that's really pretty cool and a very visual way to see how end of school approaches.