I grew up in a time when ladies always kept a hankie in their purse or tucked in the pocket of their apron. Even my dad, who worked a blue-collar job, carried cloth handkerchiefs. I can remember many a time when one of the grown-ups in my life pulled out a hankie to dry my tears or wipe my runny nose.
When my mom taught me to iron, the first item I worked with was my dad's white handkerchief. Each time the laundry was done, she would give me a big pile for practicing. After mastering the simple handkerchief, I graduated to pillow cases.
Hankies made lovely little gifts, and I can remember giving pretty seasonal hankies to my piano teacher each Christmas. I also received them from time to time, most often from my maternal grandma. Many of the hankies she chose for me depicted nursery rhymes. At one point I had amassed so many hankies that I considered it a collection. I never used my hankies, but I loved taking them out of the box, unfolding them to look at the colorful designs, then folding them carefully back up for safe-keeping.
Hankies have always been special to me, so in working through my estate situations over the past few years, I collected and saved all the hankies I found. Over time I've sorted through them and selected my favorites to keep, letting go of the rest to move on to new homes with others who appreciate their simple charm.
Some hankies evoke strong memories of my grandmas, both of whom carried hankies all of their lives. My maternal grandma loved flowers, especially purple ones, and the soft feel of her purple hankies can take me back to my childhood. Although thin and worn, these are the kinds of hankies I will keep.
My paternal grandma had very different taste in hankies. The poinsettia hankie reminds me of the many Christmas Eves my cousins and I spent at my grandparents' house, wearing our new pajamas and watching out the window for Santa's sleigh to pass overhead.
This grandma was exceedingly frugal, and some of her hankies are nearly threadbare. Of course, I'll keep this hankie, too.
For me, hankies are a tangible connection to my childhood. Although they're small, they trigger powerful memories and connect me to the people I've loved.