Our local print paper, The Fernandina Beach News-Leader, recently published one of my stories. I instinctively clipped it for Mom, the newspaper clipping queen. But I was about three years too late; she passed away and is no longer receiving mail. Along with her, the family clipping service died.
Clipping newspaper articles is something I grew up with. Mom was the family clipper and often a newspaper article would appear under my milk glass, next to my plate at a meal, or on my antique cast iron bed. If it was more important, she would hand it to me with a look that said, “read this now,” and I knew I had to read it. Relatives sent clippings to my parents and they were shared with all of us. You wouldn’t want to waste a good clipping.
By the time I left home for Washington, D.C., after college, I had been well trained in the art of clipping. I frequently sent articles clipped from The Washington Post, from publications at work, and from magazines. Mom saved every letter and the clippings in several boxes and a large drawer, accumulated over some 40 years -- proof of how much she appreciated receiving them and knowing that she successfully trained me in the art. This past year, I have had time to go through them and enjoy some memories.
Not much of a correspondent, Mom’s last lengthy letters to me (those exceeding the more common three sentences) were in 1973; I recently read them all. Despite her dislike, she wrote a great letter. But what she loved most was sending clippings, followed by receiving letters with clippings in return.
When she ran out of paperclips to hold the stacks of news clips, Mom used straight pins. That could be dangerous for the recipient who had to open her envelopes carefully. For her clippings waiting to be sent, Mom used a set of hinged decorative brass fasteners, purchased years before on a trip to Greece, to separate the piles for each of her children and others on her distribution list.
Mom’s ability to pinpoint what we needed to know from the news was usually spot on, tailored to each child and carefully cut out, including the continuations on subsequent pages. My siblings and I agree that the service is much missed. My brother received nature and antiques articles; as an agronomist turned auction hall owner, he was most interested in those things. I got political clips, articles about frogs, elephants, and horses, and, of course, about responsible budgeting and survival for divorced mothers of small children. My sister, the mother of five, received recipes, child-rearing clips, and comics such as Family Circus. Often, I rolled my eyes at the articles on politics because Mother was my political polar opposite.
In the late 1990’s, the boys and I lived in the Washington, D.C., area. Mom was amused by clippings about the stealth beaver who chomped and felled protected Tidal Basin cherry trees and created a news frenzy with every downed tree and escape. She returned the favor by sending news clips about the beaver adventures from her Florida papers, beaver totems for the boys, and beaver postcards, signed "George Washington" and "Justin."
I am sorry that the internet nixed the clipping gene in my boys, but I am glad they have great memories of Mom and the thoughtful clipping service she provided for all of us. I often snap photos of the morning comics or articles I find amusing, but mine are sent to them by text and don't carry the same punch. Clearly the clipping gene mutated as the internet joined our households.
As she cleared 90, Mom's handwriting was a bit shaky and she wasn’t able to address envelopes or get to the Post Office. But she saved her papers and clipped articles, even when she wasn’t comprehending them as well as she once had. It was her lifeline.
In her last year, Mom she would spend hours devouring the newspaper with a big magnifying glass and bright light to help her counteract the impact of macular degeneration. Even if she didn’t always read it, she sat with the paper and fussed at me if I tried to dispose of it before she was ready.
My recent article is still on the table. How I would love to send it to Mom and Dad and hear them say, as they so often did, “We’re proud of you, sweetheart.” But the clips stop here. Thanks for the memories, Mom.