Remember clippings? When friends or relatives would see something in the paper—an article, a recipe, a letter in Dear Abby—and they would cut it out and send it to you, perhaps with a little note attached: “Thought you’d get a kick out of this,” or, “Wouldn’t the kids love these cookies?” Or maybe the article would prove you wrong, or right, regarding whatever you’d been arguing about last time you got together. “See?” the note might say.”I told you!”
My father-in-law subscribed to several newspapers, which he read religiously every day. If he found something amusing, or thought-provoking, he’d clip it and send it to the party he thought would appreciate it most. When the kids went off to summer camp, he’d write them several times a week, and stick in the box scores, or a cartoon, or maybe an article that was in three columns, continued on a back page—long flimsy strips that he would staple together. He continued the practice when they went off to college.
My Aunt Rockie keeps piles of clippings for each of her three daughters, and may have separate piles for her six grandchildren, as far as I know. She also keeps books in a back room in no apparent order, but if you go see her, she’ll put her hands right on the book (or stack of books) that she put aside for you. I think to her, they’re just long-form clippings. Interested in the Marx Brothers or Greek mythology? She has books for you. Did you mention one time that you were thinking of reading more of a particular author’s work? She would scavenge the tables at the semi-annual library sale and stash the books in that back room. You knew there would be a pile awaiting your next visit, rubber-banded and labeled with a sticky note.
My father-in-law passed away a number of years ago, and I fear I may have taken on the mantle of Disseminator of the Clippings, but with a modern twist. When I’m online, I’ll bookmark essays, recipes, or things on YouTube, and email the links to my kids. They respond with the same enthusiasm as if I’d sent them clippings: mostly I don’t hear anything back. “Yeah, I saw that. Haven’t had time to read it yet.” Or, “You sent me that one already, Mom.” I can almost hear their eyes rolling.
I’m following Ruth Reichl on Twitter and have passed along her tips on making a better grilled cheese sandwich–or better pancakes–something my older son would want to know. We talked about the grilled cheese article, and he allowed as how he’d read what I sent and thought her suggestions were worth a try. Putting a little shredded cheese on the outside and using a little mayo, we both agreed, sounded pretty good.
Like everyone else, I’ve grown accustomed to the ease of finding information and sharing it. I’m not clipping, but I am clicking—and it amounts to the same thing.