I’ve said before that memories pop into our brains at the oddest times. Yesterday we were enjoying the car show in Caddo and I walked down the street to visit with my friend Belinda at Craighead’s variety store. While we were talking I glanced down at the counter and spotted a small folded handkerchief printed with delicate pink flowers. The memories came tumbling one after the other…
The first thought that came to mind was a hot iron. I learned to iron by ironing my grandfather’s plain white handkerchiefs. The big squares of cotton fabric were just the right size for ironing practice. Gran even made me starch them! I won’t tell you how many I ruined, but more than a few had scorch marks before my skill improved.
Gran always carried a handkerchief in her purse and one in her pocket. The one in her pocket was for wiping her brow or blowing her nose. The one in her purse was for offering to someone else in need. When I was very little she carried one just for me. She put a spoonful of sugar in it, tied it closed with a ribbon and let me suck on it during church. Kept me quiet! As I got older I was given my own handkerchiefs. One was perfect for carrying my offering to church. Gran gave me a handful of change and then tied it up in my handkerchief.
A real lady always had a lace hanky. I loved to look at the pretty ones in the store. Definitely too delicate for noses. Not strong enough for carrying money. Certainly not for sucking! I guess they were the kind for dropping in front of a gentleman.
Gentlemen had handkerchiefs with initials on them. They were folded neatly and used discreetly. My dad got a set for Christmas one year and I was very, very careful when I ironed them.
My mother loved handkerchiefs decorated with flowers, especially violets. Her favorites were embroidered. I’m not sure some of them were intended to be used at all and I don’t remember Mom ever blowing her nose on one. If one of her children needed a nose or face wiped there was always a plain hanky in someone’s pocket.
Real men had red or blue or orange handkerchiefs. They hung out of back pockets. They had grease stains and tears. They were used and boiled and used again. They served as bandages and slings and masks and wash cloths and anything else you needed. And they were never ironed!
I don’t carry a handkerchief anymore. I’ve “improved” like everyone else and given up hankies for tissues. Not the same at all. No disrespect to Kleenex, but I doubt that one of my kindergartners will someday have fond memories of tissues. I miss hankies. I might even go back to Craighead’s and buy that little pink one for a keepsake. I’ll just put it somewhere so I can jog my memories again.