Sister Marie DeLourdes gave our first-grade class an unusual assignment in December 1961.
Each student was to bring in one wire clothes hanger and a supply of tissue paper in whatever colors we wanted.
My mother looked at the list, went to the front hall closet, chose a wire hanger, and dug out a bag of tissue paper in the required colors. Somehow, she always had the supplies we needed for school squirreled away somewhere, ready for any eventuality. Need No. 2 pencils? She had them in her desk. Need a spiral bound notebook? There was a supply of those, too. Need blunt-nose safety scissors? Absolutely. But how did she know I would need colored tissue paper?
The day for the wire hanger and tissue paper adventure arrived and I dutifully brought my supplies to school. I hung my coat in the cloak room, removed my galoshes and toted my bag of tissue paper into the classroom.
After our morning prayers and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, Sister Marie DeLourdes gave us our instructions.
“All right, students, take your wire coat hanger and stretch it out so that is forms a circle,” she said, demonstrating the process with a coat hanger she held in front of the classroom. “Now, cut your tissue paper into strips, about an inch wide and eight inches long.” She held up a sheet of tissue paper so we could see how to cut the paper.
“When you’ve finished cutting the tissue paper into strips, wrap the strips around the hanger so that the middle of the piece of tissue paper is tied to the hanger and the ends are free, like so…,” and she showed us how.
One student raised her hand.
“Sister, mine doesn’t look right,” the student said.
Sister Marie DeLourdes inspected the situation. Rather than bringing tissue paper, the student had brought toilet tissue.
“Well, do the best you can, dear,” Sister Marie DeLourdes told her, reassuringly.
We all worked industriously to add more and more strips of tissue paper to our hangers. Some students worked with green tissue paper, some with red, and some with white. Some even alternated the colors so their hangers became kaleidoscopes of color.
Some time later, when everyone had finished and the hangers were covered, Sister Marie DeLourdes asked us, one-by-one to bring our finished Christmas wreaths to the front of the room to show the class.
Every one was different, each a work of art. Even the toilet tissue wreath looked wonderful.
“When you take your wreaths home, you can hang them up using the hook at the top of the hanger,” she told us. “I’m sure these will be a wonderful addition to your Christmas decorations.”
And they were. My mother was so impressed that she asked me to make two more so she could hang one from each of the three bay windows in the living room. Our relatives and neighbors were so impressed that they offered to pay me to make tissue paper wreaths for them. And so, I took orders to make wreaths in custom colors and patterns.
At the age of six I had become an entrepreneur.
Written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Day 7.
Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko