Friday, October 1, 2010

grandma's hankies

Years ago, when I was an adult and visiting my grandparents with my husband and children, my Grandma told me there was something she wanted to give me before she died.  Now you have to understand my Grandma (Mom's mom) was giving away her mementos for years before she died.  I think she just wanted to be sure she knew who got what, because we made several trips to Indiana and she always gave me something.

On this visit I was wondering what she was going to gift me with, it was kind of like Christmas in July. 

There was the visit she gave me her cookie book, because that was one of the few things I enjoyed cooking, and Grandma was famous for making HUNDREDS of cookies to give away every year at Christmas.  She would set up card tables in her living room to hold all the cookies she made.  She saved coffee cans all year long (this was back when they were made of metal, and recycling was unknown) and would carefully pack cookies with layers of waxed paper in the cans and freeze them, then ship them so they'd arrive before Christmas.  Grandma didn't make just one or two types either, but would always make what she knew were favorites for each family member and friend.  My mom always got Springerles, which took days to make (Google the recipe if you don't believe me) and we'd have favorites like chocolate chip and other kinds to savor.  The day that package arrived was always an important day in our family, and mom would make those cookies last longer than I thought possible.

This time Grandma was on a different mission.  She took me into the living room and went in another room and returned with a large clear plastic bag and laid it in front of me.  Inside the bag were hankies.  The kind a woman carried in her purse when she went out, especially to church.  She opened the bag and began to take the hankies out.  And as she showed them to me, she explained how she had collected them.

Years before, when my mom and dad married, my grandmothers began to correspond with each other.  Not only did they send letters to each other, but they also sent cards on special occasions like birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Day and the like, and hankies were in many of those cards.  Grandma showed me all kinds of hankies, and though I loved the holiday hankies, the ones I loved the best were the ones that had crocheted edges.  There were also hankies with cutwork, shadow embroidery, and applique, but I  recognized the crocheted ones as my Grammy's work.  (Grammy was my dad's mom.)  As I touched the edging that I knew had been held in my Grammy's hands, I grew warm inside.  She and Grandma spent a lot of time and thought on sending those hankies, and even though I never got to see the ones that Grammy received from Grandma, I knew they were probably a lot like the ones I was looking at and holding.

You see, my grandmothers never met in life.  Phone calls and those cards and letters were as close as they physically got.  But I looked at the hankies and knew that each hanky was sent with thoughts of love.  And I knew that those hankies were the tangible evidence Grandma was giving me to show me how much she loved my Grammy.  Grandma talked about how much she always cared for  Grammy, how they had remained close even after my parents divorced, and that she wanted to make sure those hankies stayed with our family.

I took those hankies home, and have taken them out often to look at them and remember.  Remembering my grandmothers, and how much I loved each one.  How different and unique they were as women in my life and the influence they each had on me.  And on a few occasions in my life, I have given a hanky to someone special in my life, who had made an impact on me and changed my life in some way.  It makes me warm inside to know that out there in different parts of the world are symbols of the love my grandmothers had for each other.  Each time I gave a hanky away, I told their story of friendship that never wavered.  Grammy died many years before Grandma, but they were friends til they died.  The remainder of the hankies (and there are still many) will go to my daughters and sisters, and the first time we are all together we are going to pick what we want.  Democratically, because that is the way Grandma and Grammy would want it to be done.  Shared hankies, shared love.

I have started crocheting edgings for linen hankies.  For my girls to have.  And for my granddaughter Maddie to hold and look at some day.

And grow warm inside remembering the Grammy who worshipped her. 

I can't give the hankies to her now.  She is five years old.  She'd blow her nose on them.


  1. Oh Cath! This made me cry! What a great story! I have seen hankies like that made into quilts, and I think that would be so awesome to have one like that!

  2. I have been trying to decide if I want to take the hankies I will have left and mount them in a frame to hang on the wall or is so humid in the south that mold is always an issue...