Lacy edges showing through the clear cellophane wrapping, the package transported me to another time, another place.
Gently, I unwrapped the triangle shaped item I found while cleaning out a bureau drawer. I carefully unfolding it into a white square — a linen handkerchief that I had forgotten. It had been brought back to me by a daughter who had visited Ireland years ago.
I don’t remember how long ago the gift was given to me, but it must have been sometime after the pop-up tissue became the item of choice for a drippy nose. I have a feeling the fancy handkerchief may have met its demise in the early 60s, maybe the same time the lacy bra went up in smoke.
Handkerchief were popular gifts when I was growing up and my early adult years. During that time, I gave countless handkerchiefs as gifts to my mother, teachers and friends.
A clean handkerchief in my pocket or purse was as much a part of my life as vegetables at the dinner table. As a child, we never left home without my mother asking if I had one. If I didn’t, she always had an extra in her purse.
“Here you are,” she would say. “A lady never leaves home without her handkerchief.”
A clean handkerchief was in the same category as clean underwear. A lady must never be caught in an accident without either, was something I heard on a regular basis.
A handkerchief had many personalities and for every age group. Many of the handkerchief of my childhood portrayed cartoon or storybook characters. As I got older, the handkerchief became more sophisticated, often lace edge with tiny pastel flowers embroidered in the corner or intricate design. The handkerchief I carried down the aisle on our wedding day was of pure lace and would not have been at all helpful had the groom became emotional.
By the time our first daughter was born, my purse was filled with tissues and our home had a box of tissues in nearly every room. Little has changed.
It does seem to me the world without handkerchiefs is a very different place from a pop-up tissue world of my early years. The handkerchief is reminiscent of romance and chivalry. What young woman of yesterday didn’t dream of the handsome young man gallantly picking up the pretty handkerchief she not-so-accidentally dropped?
A gallant young man picking up a dropped tissue doesn’t resonate in the same way.
There could be change on the horizon. The handkerchief is making a comeback as environmentalist are urging consumers to stop using tissue and return to cloth. However, I can’t picture an environmentally-sound lacy handkerchief.