Crepe paper

Yellow and pink crepe paper in a doorway
Yellow and pink crepe paper in a doorway

Not having much money during the Great Depression in rural Arkansas, my great grandmother Ma Em used to cut up old magazines to decorate doors and chairs for her children's birthdays. They weren't formal decorations, but they were festive nevertheless. As a grown woman, her daughter Barbara continued this birthday ritual for her four daughters in Texas. It was the sixties and with more disposable income, Barbara used crepe paper to adorn the home. Her eldest daughter, my mother, always decorated our bedroom doors with these vibrant, papery strips the night before our birthday.  When I moved to New York, my Texan mom was no longer able to embellish my door with crepe paper, but she called my roommate and asked him to do it. The joyful surprise of waking up that morning to see streaming strips of blue and green still remains in my memory. Now that I live with my partner, he and I still use crepe paper to celebrate our birthdays—it’s a practice he’s picked up! Recently my niece visited NYC and stayed with us for her 9th birthday, so we decorated the apartment for her “just like grandma does!”, as she said. Ma Em was probably searching for a way to make her children feel special during the Depression, not realizing that five generations later the practice would continue.  Like many people I don't know my immigrant story, but my family has forged new stories and traditions originating here in America.

Place(s): Texas,New York
Year: 1930

– Kathleen

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more