Some things I hold dear are odd because they appear neither meaningful nor nostalgic. I’m probably the only person who saved their parent’s handkerchiefs from the donation bag after they passed away. Is it possible to be emotionally attached to hankies?
It would have been beneficial to dad’s overall health if he’d hadn’t worked for the Iowa State Highway Commission. During the winter he drove a snowplow over the hazardous roads between the South Dakota border and Sheldon, Iowa. Ice, snow, accompanied by a 50 mile-an-hour westerly breeze, producing blizzard conditions, missing suppers, working late into the night. It was part of his job and he rarely complained about it. Besides there always was a spot for the overtime pay he got during storms. But it was the months of April through October that bothered dad’s physical health.
After Larry died and Mona got married, I got the bedroom down the hall from mom and dad’s room, approximately 15 feet away. Born to a family of early risers, mom got up at 5 to start work at 7. She’d shake out the throw rugs (letting the front door slam a half dozen times), then dust the dining room and kitchen floors on hands and knees using a small rag. She’d gather all 47 grains (she did this every morning, how much dirt could there be from the 3 of us) of sand between her index finger and thumb and carefully place them in the dust rag.
Mom started a pot of coffee for dad’s lunch pail, wrapped his banana in waxed paper and set his thermos on the kitchen table. The rest of his lunch (in waxed paper) was in the fridge which dad packed before he left. Then she’d wash up and get dressed for work (after she’d worked for 2 hours). Dad didn’t get up until 6:30 but his day began much earlier from April-October. I didn’t have to get up until they were both out the door but when mom and dad’s day started earlier-so did mine. If slamming the front door and the whack/whack from shaking out the rugs wasn’t enough, dad had a early morning ritual that drove this preteen crazy.
The reason dad should have worked elsewhere was allergies. During the spring, summer and fall dad drove a huge mower on Highway 18 & 75’s shoulder and in the ditch. Dad suffered (causing me to suffer) the worst hay fever/outdoor allergies I’ve ever seen. It was like clockwork, every morning, starting before 6 (no alarms were needed in our house).
Significant amount of sneezing. If I was awake I’d start counting to see if he could break his own record (I remember days when he topped out over 40). Mom, downstairs with the front door slamming shut every other minute and dad upstairs doing his morning reps of multiple sneezing. I don’t think he ever doctored for his allergies and never took an over the counter medication.
After 15 minutes with no respite from his barrage of sneezing, dad would wander downstairs to start the day. I’d hear them talking in hushed voices (no reason to wake up Denise yet-hahaha-but their quiet conversations were the only part of their morning I wanted to hear). In between her cleaning projects and his sneezing fits, I’d just lay in bed, waiting for the house to be quiet again. Then it was time for me to rise and shine, pick out an outfit, eat some cinnamon/sugar on Hillbilly toast and trudge the block and a half to school.
I’m not sure when the first laundromat opened in Rock Valley but before mom become their regular customer she did our laundry using a wringer washer in the basement. Then she lugged heavy wash baskets of wet laundry and hung up everything on the clothesline outside-winter and summer. White clothes first, (the water was super hot and clean), sheets, colored clothes, towels and dad’s work clothes last. Dad wore blue overalls and long sleeved chambray shirts year round (plus longjohns 10 months a year). His hands up to his wrists were dark brown from that radiant Iowa sun but his arms were whiter than the snow drifts he plowed.
The clothesline made everything smell wonderful but our clothes were horribly wrinkled (and stiff as a board during the winter when mom brought it in). After waiting for the clothes to thaw and dry, she made most of it wet again. Crazy! She’d sprinkle the clothes with a green glass 7-Up pop bottle, using a cork with tiny holes so the water would daintily dampen the clothes, rolled them up like a burrito then spend an evening attached to her ironing board to get rid of the wrinkles.
Which brings me to their hankies. Mom bought white hankies with various colored tatted edge or crocheted borders using fine thread. She didn’t carry a purse but always brought a clean hankie to church where she knotted a couple pink peppermints in one corner for her noisy, bored youngest kid. Plain white hankies for dad when he was dressed in ‘church clothes’ and red or navy paisley ones for him at work. Mom kept hankies in our car’s glovebox at all times.
Mom didn’t press our sheets or dad’s work clothes but she ironed everything else. The pillowcases with a crocheted border (which left ‘indented marks’ on your face for hours after you laid on it), her white work uniforms and dad’s dress shirts. Can’t forget the hankies. Dad used one before he left for work and another couple during the day. After washing up and eating supper, he’d changed into ‘good clothes’ to do the Lord’s work (which required a white hankie, so he went through 3 a day! Mom ironed 25 hankies a week.
Mom saved the hankies until last when she ironed-maybe because they were easy or her eyes had glazed over and she could do this blindfolded. She’d unplug the iron (this was before steam irons and they stayed hot for as long as it took to iron 2 dozen hankies) and laid one flat on the ironing board. Ran the iron over it, folded in half, pressed, folded again the long way, pressed and folded it four times for a nice square that fit easily in dad’s pocket.
I didn’t save all their hankies. Some of mom’s fancier ones were divided up between the girls in our family. I use dad’s hankies to clean my glasses and keep several around the house, my makeup case and purse because a smudge on my glasses drives me bonkers. Although I grew up in a home with a full assortment of hankies, I never use them for my nose (that’s why God made Kleenex). Definitely not a hankie snob but I’m kinda snotty about my hankie stash…