Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mama's Hankie

Mama always had a hankie somewhere on her person. Most of the time she carried it in the middle of her bra where it couldn't be seen but would be readily available if the need arose. There were times when I also saw that hankie come out of her apron pocket; other times it got plucked out of her purse. But most of the time, it came out of her favorite hiding place.

Mama always wore an apron

I thought mama was so smart to find a easy place to keep that hankie. So one day I decided to keep one there too. It made a lump on my blouse and then fell to the floor. I stubbornly jabbed it back inside the blouse. When I realized the battle had been lost, I went to mom, asking why hers would stay put and mine wouldn't.

She didn't laugh. I give her credit for that. Had our roles been reversed, I'm pretty sure I'd have giggled long and loud. She told me I'd have to keep it in a pocket until I grew old enough for a bra. She promised me that when that day came, the hankie would stay put.

Pretty bags that smelled good
were always in her hankie drawer
Back in that day, there was no such thing as Kleenex. No paper towels either. Mom had a whole stack of hankies she kept in her dresser, along with some kind of perfume bag that smelled wonderful. Even now I can remember the scent of her handkerchiefs.

Mama had a lot of hankies
They were her handiest tool. Those hankies dried tears, wiped noses, and all too often, got spit on so mama could wash my sister's and my faces. I have no way of remembering how many times I got spit washed as a child. But it was a lot.

We'd go off to visit someone and before we even got out of the car, all three of we girls got the once over. Out came the hankie. We sisters would all look at each other, wondering who was going to get the spit cleaning. It was usually me. The middle sister was too much a lady; the little sister too young. That spit wet hankie generally headed my direction. The only reason I ever put up with it was because it was never wet enough to be icky and the hankie smelled good.

There were times when we'd all be out as a family and one of us girls  would fall and skin a knee or elbow or whatever. Out came the hankie. Wounds got double spit. The wounded one got cleaned till mama was satisfied we wouldn't get infected before we got home to proper first-aid.

My own hankies were kid size.
Every mom I knew always carried a hankie somewhere on her person. I grew to love having a hankie collection. I still have them, old as they are, because I've taken good care of them. These days, Kleenex gets popped into my purse. Or maybe a few wet-ones. The hankies stay in my scented dresser drawer where they'll be safe.

When my own kids were young, I carried more modern equipment on my person, all the better to wipe my own kids noses or dry some tears. Boxed tissue and individually wrapped wet naps were my tools of the trade. Even so, there were times when an emergency presented itself and out came the Kleenex. I'd carefully scrunch it and put it to my lips. The kids knew a spit shine was imminent and they objected loud and clear. Sometimes they even took off running. Looking back, I wonder why my two sisters and I didn't do the same.

According to history, handkerchiefs date back to Rome and the days of the gladiators--when those in attendance waved their hankies in response to whatever was going on in the ring. My guess would be that it was the men waving the hankies. Those moms, like all others after them, were likely spit washing a youngster's smudgy face or skinned knee. In a mother's world, some things just never seem to change.

Over the years, I've given this hankie thing a lot of thought and part of me is sorry such a genteel habit has gone by the wayside. In my recollections, I see mom's using apron corners and hankies to spot check their kids, whether they liked it or not. I've also decided that the reason my sisters and I put up with it was due to the fact that mom always smelled as good as her hankies, so good none of us ever minded being shined up a bit. Well, that isn't exactly true. We did mind. But it was mom. Nobody else would have gotten by with it. You know what I mean?

"She watches over the ways of her household, 
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her Blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her."
Proverbs 31: 27, 28

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Black Leather Jacket And Motorcycle Boots

In 1950s Minnesota, where I grew up, the guys who wore black leather jackets and motorcycle boots were called "Hoods." I never knew where the name came from and little did I care. According to my mom, all Hoods were dangerous, with few morals, and always ready to take advantage of a young girl. Being the obedient kid that I was, I stayed away from the guys who rumbled past our high school on their noisy motorbikes.

How on earth could a good girl ever conceive that her future in California would not only include a Hood, but a marriage that would last more than fifty years?

By the time I met Jim, he had traded in his motorbike for a '55 Chevy. In the years following, his taste in clothes changed. So did his choice of vehicles. During his long career at our local gas and electric company, he was always a picture of decorum and drove a sensible family car. Once the kids were gone, he bought a truck. Horrors! Would a motorbike be next? Sadly, the advanced Parkinson Disease put an end to that dream, for I have no doubt in my mind that Jim would have taken to riding the streets as he had done when he was young.

But I'll let you in on a little secret. There was always this part of Jim that refused to let go of those bygone days. His closet held black motorcycle boots that he loved wearing and a black, leather jacket to make the outfit perfect. The last year of his life was still studded with times he wore his "Hood" outfit. I always smiled, figuring one can take the man out of the motorbike but you can't take the motorbike out of the man.

In a few weeks, Jim would have had another birthday. While I've never believed in celebrating the birthday of one who's passed away, for obviously, they get no older, I would still like to honor the love of my life, the moral man God sent to protect and cherish me. So I decided to write this short reflection of his past--that part of him few know about, and to set the record straight that those "Hoods" weren't all cut of the same cloth.