Treasures still lurk in the backroom and I take great joy in uncovering them. I found this collection of handkerchiefs in a dark forgotten corner, tucked neatly into a hand embroidered linen pouch (top right). Carefully pinned to the pouch was this note.
“Handkerchiefs from early 30s from brother at sea & two aunts from Nova Scotia. (Dad’s sisters.)”
These delightful memoirs of past lives are more than eighty years old. The imagination soars with stories as to how these delicate handkerchiefs came to be in the hands of a man traveling upon the seas. Were they talismans of good luck for a safe journey? Were they for a sweetheart in a far away land?
I suppose we will never know their stories, and yet I find myself carried back to a time when ladies carried beautiful handkerchiefs — often embroidered and adorned by their own hands. Some were made of fine linen or Chinese silk, which was a sign of a woman of means.
Today’s paper substitutes lack the charm and usefulness of yesterday’s handkerchief. A handkerchief was reserved for the discreet dabbing of tears yet unshed. The handkerchief protected delicate nostrils from the indelicate odors of city life — saturated with perfumes and held to the nose. This little square of cloth even served as a tool for coy flirtations, the handkerchief was a great opener for conversation. “Excuse me, ma’am. Did you drop this?”, he would ask with a winning smile and a knowing glimmer in his eyes. A borrowed white handkerchief edged in blue nearly always found its way into a bride’s trousseau.