Paper Mommy Knows Best

Posted on: May 13th, 2008 by Julie Bestry | No Comments

Although this post appears two days after Mother’s Day, it’s actually being prepared in advance because Paper Doll is having an extended weekend.  This post is in tribute to the wise woman of paper, the great cartoonist and epistolary maven, Paper Doll‘s own dear, silly Paper Mommy.

Paper Mommy developed her own intriguing way to organize paper, long ago. Having never worked in an office, she “didn’t know from hanging folders”, but she immediately grasped the concepts of grouping like-with-like. I recall oversized kraft-paper envelopes stored in the cabinet above the oven, with her precise, still-as-she-learned-in-grammar-school handwriting noting whether the envelopes held appliance manuals (dated as to whether they were from “the old house” or “the new house”, though the new house is now 37 years old) or charming, funny letters and newspaper clippings.

Some of the envelopes still hold copies of her hysterically funny letters to friends, such as the one detailing her heroic stint as field trip mom at Beaver Hollow, a fifth grade “camping trip” rarely (and barely) survived by surburban moms–set to the melody of Allan Sherman’s Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.  Long before home offices were de rigeuer, Paper Mommy had her paper categories broken down in no time flat.

Paper Mommy didn’t have a Blackberry, but her calendar has always been as certain as her love.  She was never late to pick up from school or after-school activities, never double-booked, and always remembered orthodontist appointments and special dates.  Without benefit of Microsoft Outlook alarms, she also kept a perfectly designed scheduling grid on a small bit of scrap paper so that a sick-bed Paper Doll got her cough medicine, antibiotics, St. Joseph’s Baby Aspirin (remember when kids were all given that?) all at the right times and in the right dosages, with strikethroughs to show the completed dosing. Dr. Paper Mommy was at the ready!

Whether fulfilling her role as political wife or as the coolest-mom-ever to two daughters 11 years apart, she has always had carefully written longhand lists on yellow legal pads, detailing every bit of planning for major events. Countdown schedules, grocery lists, catering or cooking menus, entertainment plans, guest lists, RSVPs–whether planning a birthday party for ten or a political fund-raiser for hundreds, a Bat Mitzvah or a bridal shower, Paper Mommy kept her information so well organized, I suspect that if professional organizers had existed in the 1950’s, she’d have been a founding member of NAPO.

But the paper for which Paper Mommy is best known are her notes and letters. Now, she’d be the first to admit that her spelling can be creative, but considering she was fluent in English first, then Yiddish before kindergarten, and given that she concurrently took Spanish and Hebrew language classes while in high school, is it any wonder that standard American-English spelling might be an impediment to yielding her amazing mix of storytelling, daily reportage, motivational pronouncements and advice?

Paper Doll may argue in favor of limiting memorabilia, but it’s just not possible to toss out the oft-folded notes from school lunches and college care packages and weekly emails of coupons and columns.  Perhaps someday there will be the pefect combination of scanning and tangible but space-saving memorabilia storage (something akin to Together Book, but for notes and drawings), to self-publish the crazy, loving, paper proof-positive of my amazingly wise, if wacky, maternal goofball.  (Of course, some, like the giant motivational poster-turned-cartoon with paper clothes glued onto paper grocery bag canvases, with a real dollar bill folded, sticking out of the cartoon’s trouser pocket, are deserving of display at art museums worldwide.)

No, Paper Mommy isn’t the only mommy out there with this kind of writing skill, as the fun web site Postcards From My Momma can attest. But Paper Mommy’s notes, whether written on scratch paper or fine stationery, scrawled on the tops of newspaper and magazine clippings stuffed in with the week’s supply of coupons, or charted on that ever-available long yellow legal paper, have never failed to be endearing, entertaining and colorful.   And with every note, there’s always one of her famously self-styled cartoons displaying ample bosom and clown-sized feet, with a relatively up-to-the-minute display of teh day’s (cartoonish, and yet somewhat realistic) hairstyle.

Today, and every day, this blog is dedicated to the woman who taught me the principles of organizing, who understood my need to go to three stores because no two classes could be stored in the same shade of blue, is an exemplary role model for creating a functioning world of paper, and who has always said “I’m proud of you before you even get out of bed in the morning.”

Paper Mommy–you rock!

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