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Friday, January 31, 2014

Hankie, No Panky

Okay, I'm going to just go right out and say it. I love handkerchiefs. Gram gave me a handkerchief when I was in second grade, and I still have it. It is a white cotton square with about a two-inch lace border all around. It has served me well for many years, and yes, I do use it. I will carry it around for a bit and then put it in a dresser drawer to rest for a while. One of the times that it was out of the drawer, my sister Liz saw it and asked, "Are you going to give that to me?" Heck no, I wasn't going to give it to her! It was a gift given to me, and I still treasure it. Over the years it gets softer and softer, just like me, I guess.

I am sure that some of you who are reading this might be thinking something like, "Handkerchiefs? Ew, how disgusting!" Well, that's okay. I just happen to like them a lot. If I have a handkerchief or two with me, I am ready for just about anything. If it's a warm day, it can be used to blot my face. If necessary, I could tie knots in the corners and use it as a makeshift hat to keep the sun off of my head. If I go to a public restroom and there are no hand towels or dryers, that extra clean hankie dries my hands in a flash, and is ready for whatever action will come up next. To say nothing of movies! When you have a nice clean handkerchief in your purse or pocket, you don't have to worry about using a scratchy, greasy, salty popcorn napkin to wipe away your tears during those intense emotional moments. And if I were in a real bind and needed some kindling to start a fire in the wilderness, I could use strips of the cloth to help feed my lifesaving flames. Or even for a bandage or a tourniquet.

Several years ago, I decided to perform an experiment. Most of us have had at least one or two colds in our lifetimes. We sometimes look as bad as we feel, with our pale faces and our red noses. During one of those times, I decided that the next time I had a cold, I wasn't going to use a single tissue. It would be cotton hankies all the way. I wondered if it would make an unpleasant situation just a bit less uncomfortable. And guess what? It did! I have quite a few hankies, so running out was no worry, although I hand washed the hankies after each use, since I was going to wash my hands anyway. Since I was using a soft, absorbent piece of cotton rather than paper made form wood fibers, my nose was much happier. I discovered that the red nose was caused by the rubbing from tissues rather than the cold itself, and it just felt nicer. I am not trying to convert you. If you like tissues, by all means use them. I know that they have the advantage of feeling like you are throwing away the germs. But let me also say that in the last several years, I have probably bought less than five boxes of tissues.

I have hankies of all kinds. There are inexpensive hankies purchased online in packets of a dozen. They get softer with each wash. Some of my favorites have been purchased in antique shops. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. One or two are round and printed with bouquets of flowers. There are paisleys and posies, solids and prints, embroidered and plain. Blues, pinks, purples, oranges, greens, browns...all sorts of colors. Some are utilitarian in appearance while others are lovely and delicate and sometimes lace-trimmed. I have some that are Irish linen and some embroidered with my initial, purchased in Budapest. Some are even from Trent's mother's collection of hankies, including a lovely white one with crocheted red hearts at the corners. Since it is getting close to Valentine's Day, I guess I had better pull that one out of the drawer, along with the sheer hankie with the greenery and red flowers. I even have one or two big white men's hankies for use "around the house."

If you see me out and about and I get a sniffle, you will also see me pull one of my many hankies from my pocket or purse. Many lucky ladies have been the recipient of an antique hankie from me as well. And like my friend Marie, who gave me a lovely linen handkerchief that she purchased in Ireland when she was there several years ago (along with several other lovely hankies over the years), I ask that it not simply be put in a drawer, but that it be given an opportunity to dance. What, you don't know how to make a hankie dance? You just put a little boogie in it...