I began carrying ladies’ cotton handkerchiefs 11 years ago at my mother’s funeral. I had loaded my suit jacket pockets with them in preparation. I was a crier and I knew that mere paper tissues were not going to cut it.
I had started collecting “hankies” innocently enough. My mother had given me some of her hankies years before she died — plain white cotton, edged in hand-crocheted lace that my grandmother had made. I kept them as keepsakes, in a drawer unseen. Then my husband was hired to clean a garage. The former owner’s relatives were preparing the property for sale and didn’t want any of the garage “junk” — including a leather box of vintage, never used, neatly pressed ladies’ hankies. My husband thought I’d like them, so he gave them to me. I thought they were beautiful and put them on display in our home.
At my mother’s funeral I had a reason to use hankies for their intended purpose. Now using vintage handkerchiefs has become one more way I embrace my inner old lady.
In the months after Mom’s funeral as my siblings and I worked at emptying our parents’ house, my oldest sister found more hankies in Mom’s dresser drawer and gave them to me. As they learned of my hankering for hankies, other family members and friends started finding them for me as well. A blue floral here, a pink floral there, and my collection started to grow. The most recent additions are four state-themed beauties I acquired for 25 cents apiece from the World’s Largest Garage Sale on the Cattle Congress Showground in Waterloo, Iowa. Now I can blow my nose on Nebraska, Florida, Colorado, and Oklahoma.
Recently my niece’s 5-year-old daughter saw me using one of my hankies and asked what it was, so I explained. Then she asked why I wasn’t using a tissue. (Yes, she mentioned a particular brand, but I don’t want to imply a commercial endorsement.) I told her I used handkerchiefs because they were pretty and practical. They could be washed and used again. She thought that made sense, and so do I.