Sunday, December 28, 2008


When I was a child, one year at Christmas time, my parents went to Sears and Roebuck (or maybe J.C. Penney's) and bought us a fireplace. It was made out of cardboard; I remember it was red and gray and white and black. They erected it in the living room for Santa to come down the chimney. The whole family was very proud of it, I recall. I have to strain to remember but this is something that I have never forgotten. Putting up the fireplace became part of the Christmas tradition for some years, just as we put up the tree and the ancient electric candle set that my mother placed in a front window--just as we taped all of the Christmas cards we received onto the front door.

The memory of that fireplace came to me just a few years ago, triggered by I don't know what. A long time has passed since I thought of it. Once recalled, I thought how pitiful it was, that fireplace. It felt symbolic of many things--our paltry income, the inadequacy of our little house that barely held two adults and six children, some naivety on the part of my parents. Yet how was the fireplace any different from the belief and ritual around Santa Claus? All the fireplace required was the suspension of disbelief, just as Santa did, and lo and behold, it was just another cheerful way of celebrating the holiday.

Recently I noticed that there was an iPhone application composed of a fireplace that filled the device screen, blazing and crackling away. I chuckled over it, thinking about my childhood fireplace. When I mentioned it to David, he pointed out that there are cable stations that do the same; show a lit fireplace. He remarked that these latest were high def versions of my own low def fireplace.

And so it goes. Evidently a fireplace is important for some folks, whether it is to aid in Santa's work or to provide a symbol of comfort and warmth in the wintertime. I wonder what happened to my parent's cardboard fireplace, which I am sure was thrown out long ago once it lost the magical appeal.

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