The Handkerchief – Memories of Eva

Thoughts of my sister Eva, gone 64 days today, come flashing through my head from the most unexpected sources, some, like storm clouds, are gloomy and dark, some are as joyful as catching a glimpse of a shooting star.

Today, a Twitter account I follow, Fermanagh County Museum, referenced an article in The Guardian newspaper about the history of the hanky and that was the trigger that opened the pandora’s box of happy little memories…nothing dramatic, but quiet gentle little reminiscences that made the day more pleasant.

Embroidered hankies

My sister Eva adored handkerchiefs and used them all her life. No paper tissues for her – she was a woman before her time with her ecofriendly hankies, lovingly laundered and meticulously ironed each Saturday, her housework day. I was just wondering if I asked my grandchildren aged 10, 11 and 12, what a hanky is, would they even know?

Handkerchiefs as they were known, before the diminutive ‘hanky’, were staple Christmas and birthday gifts. Aunts, visitors and even Santa considered them approriate and suitable gifts for people of all ages.

Our Aunt May, a nun, never overlooked a birthday or Christmas for any one of her nieces and nephews. Often her gifts would be a box of hankies- flat book sized boxes, smaller cigarette packet sized boxes. Some single offerings, some containing 2, 3 or even 6 . Some beautiful ones with prints of favourite cartoon figures for the small children, some colourfully emroidered, some emroidered white on white, some with lacework and very special linen ones with lace edgings for weddings.

Eva acquired her great love of hankies from our Mother – who had dozens of them, some for everyday, some for special occasions. When Mum died in 1999, Eva laid claim to the cache of hankies and she proudly packed them into her New Zealand bound luggage!

On December 10 last, Eva said she had ordered some new hankies from Marks and Spencers online and she hoped to have them in a few days as the delivery service from UK to Australia was really fast. I asked her if she needed more hankies and she said she wanted new ones for Christmas, her favourite time of year.

I suspect they were Christmas themed hankies like these, but I am not sure. I don’t know if she ever got to enjoy them as exactly a week later she slipped into a coma from which she never woke up.

The humble hanky was my shooting star today.

Shooting star – Image Wikimedia Commons

March 4 2021

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