In search of story


Soap opera

I did it again: I washed a kleenex.

My to-do list for today, the one-week mark before Christmas Eve, stretches from here to Jupiter. Do I really have time to stand there picking kleenex molecules off socks?

Oh, and did I mention the load was darks? I probably didn’t have to because if you, dear reader, have ever done the same thing, you know that Murphy’s statistics favor the darks.

As I stood there pincing tissue seaweed with thumb and forefinger and muttering to myself, my thoughts zoomed back to my mother. But of course: who else to blame for this mess? In our house, nobody moved without a hanky. Hanky. That’s the nickname for handkerchief, an ancient concept involving nose and lace. I grew up with hankies. I carried them daily, matched them to my clothes, dampened and ironed them. I proudly presented them for Mothers’ Day.

I needed them. In our area, gurgling sinuses were universal, so hankies were essential. Of course there were hanky substitutes, such as sleeves, but they were roundly denounced by my mother.

Every morning, after we charged through our one-bathroom four-person prep, Mom would yell as we went out the door “Books? Money? Hanky? Lunch?” Check, check, check, and check, Mom! Eventually it became Booksmoneyhankylunch! and it was our rallying cry for many years after. The hanky, standard of propriety and order: don’t leave home without it.

Ladies’ hankies were pretty. Most were flowered, some embroidered, monogrammed, laced or tatted. Men’s hankies were mostly plain white, though some might have color or pattern. But then everything morphed into the disposable, bland tissue. Hygiene trumped fashion. Thus do I come to wash kleenex.

Hanky wardrobe circa 1960

Hanky wardrobe circa 1960