“…and all Good Wishes for a Happy New Year”

Although I’ll admit to never having read any of Margaret Deland’s books, I now have a certain curiosity about her. I’m intrigued because of an inserted Christmas card found in one of the Maine Women Writers Collection books by Deland. This holiday card to “dear Mrs. Piper and her charming daughter Minerva” was placed in one of Deland’s two autobiographical books, this one entitled Golden Yesterday written in 1941—to be discovered later when the book was prepared for cataloging.

What is curious about the card has nothing to do with its vintage look—it’s a perfect holiday graphic from the 1950s, but is because of a funny little drawing created by Deland from the initials she uses for her signature along with two other sets (indicating her “family,” as she refers to them in the card). The intrigue for me is seeing that Deland has transformed the “D” initial in her name into the head of a snowman or snowwoman-like creature with huge ears and finishing the look with stick arms, spidery hands, a flowing skirt (may we assume we are seeing a snowwoman?), goofy shoes. The head of the figure is bald (all snow creatures are bald!), and the face somehow conveys an expression of surprise with its dots from her pen for eyes and mouth. And Deland has used the finishing flourish of her “D” to give the caricature a sense of motion. Is Deland sharing a moment of whimsy or humor– or is there something less festive behind the doodle? Was this creature known to Mrs. Piper and Minerva? Is Minerva a child who would delight in seeing the drawing on the card?

As with other inserts in the Maine Women Writers Collection, the unknowns about their origins, their paths into the books that harbor them, and their intent make them interesting for collection material. And gives me pause to wonder what I have closed a book on.

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