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Friday, September 30, 2011

A Cardboard Fireplace

The temperature has dropped tonight, and it feels like fire season.

My mom, bless her heart, didn't have a fireplace. But she always understood that a fireplace was something warm and homey, so she did her best...with a cardboard fireplace. I guess they were popular in the 1960s, cardboard cut-outs that looked (sort of) like the real thing. The one we had was a corner model, white cardboard brick with a white cardboard chimney. It sat at the base of the stairs, so on Christmas morning the little rotating orange light that was supposed to look like a sparking fire invited us downstairs. I remember my dad waving hands and warning mom that putting real candles on the cardboard mantle was dangerous, but she didn't care. She wanted my sister and me to get it, how wonderful it might be to have a fire, or a pretend one, glowing on Christmas morning. I don't recall that she ever lit the cardboard fireplace at any other time.

When I bought my house it seemed necessary to install a fireplace...actually, two. I didn't grow up with a such luxuries. Yet when I was remodeling, it seemed important to include bluestone and chimneys, things my mom never had but understood.

Tonight a friend from Arkansas arrived. We sat by the real fire, blazing there at the end of the room, using real wood recently delivered. I couldn't help but think of my mom and her cardboard re-enactment. Thanks, mom. Even though you didn't give me an actual fireplace back then, I got the idea. Near October is time for sweatshirts and banana bread, turning up the thermostat, cuddling under quilts. It's time for stray sparks, and a cozy spot by the hearth. Your cardboard fireplace seemed tacky then, but now, so many years later, I'm glad I walked down those stairs and saw its silly fake light. Even now I think I might be able to rub my hands together over the orange light bulb and feel the love and warmth of family, which is really what you were trying to tell me all along.


David said...

Very nice. We had one with a brick pattern. There's a picture of me holding my cat in front of it.

Kathleen Yasas said...

Glad to know our cardboard fireplace...an odd bit of decor...wasn't the only one.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. I was just writing some memoirs about my Christmas's past and thought of the cardboard fireplace we had until we moved to a new home with a real fireplace when I was 11. I loved that thing and remember it like it was yesterday...when mom and dad put that up it meant the Christmas season had arrived. Thanks again.

Kathleen Yasas said...

Dear Anonymous: It seems many of us had these strange but homey fireplaces. I've heard from a couple of dozen people about them since I wrote this post, and everybody agrees that, as kids, we didn't care if the fireplace was stone or cardboard: what the fireplace represented was good times. Thanks for the comment.

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Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum