After months of not feeling well, I got up enough energy to go shopping toward the end of the month. I live in downtown Milwaukee just a few blocks from the Grand Avenue Mall. It is named for Wisconsin Avenue, called The Grand Avenue from the days when prominent and fashionable people lived in the mansions along it. A few years ago my son and I were crossing Wisconsin avenue from the 30 bus stop in the frenzy of holiday shoppers when a small terribly excited child shouted out "There it is, there it is, the grand mal!" I guess we are fortunate to have such a landmark associated with seizures in the minds of children.
My goal was to get some cotton handkerchiefs. Paper tissues have a strange odor to me, especially when I haven't been feeling well. A stack of freshly pressed cotton handkerchiefs in the dresser drawer is quite reassuring. Our fine department stores have white cotton ones in the mens department in packages of seven and fourteen that are generous without being overpowering. It has been a rough winter and I need one in my coat pocket, a second one in my skirt or jeans pocket and a third in my backpack, purse, or briefcase in reserve. Clutching a handkerchief when your hands are sweating from nerves helps. In summer they are also great to wipe the sweat from a brow or to wet and blot at your face and neck to cool off. In the story of Othello the Moor, an handkerchief is used to destroy a relationship.
I enjoy the work of visual artists and musicians. The often neglected senses of touch and smell can be quite powerful too. My mother always carried extra handkerchiefs for her three small children, as well as the occasional cousin or two who came along. Her rescue kit consisted of a leather purse in which she carried them along with a roll of mints, chewing gum and the other things mothers need to have with them. When we got hurt physically or emotionally, she would dispense a cool, clean, pressed, cotton handkerchief to dab the tears from the hot cheeks.
Next part of the treatment was a good, long blow of the nose. That is when the combined scent of leather and mint that meant mother and comfort was perceived and imprinted. After the nose was taken care of, you were given the handkerchief to hold and often a mint to suck on or some gum to chew as your sobs died away.
A nice, sturdy handkerchief was also used to carry coins tied into a corner. We had purses, but they were saved for going to church on Sunday along with the little white gloves and socks and straw hats with flowers. Having the weight of the coins in the corner of the handkerchief made a dandy weapon when swung at a high velocity, the impact of which often caused injuries needing treatment as described above.
Ironing my collection of handkerchiefs brings back memories. There are linen ones with tatted or crocheted borders that were childhood gifts from family members. Some were souvenirs like the two Hanae Mori fine cotton print ones from Tokyo and a solid fuscia handkerchief from Cleveland. There is the red bandana with many fine holes. They were made when I loaned it to my son to carry some treasures he found at the beach and he swung and rattled the pebbles in it on the way home grinding the fabric. Other bandanas are faded from using them as scarves while hiking in the mountains or on bicycle trips to hold my hair back or keep my ears warm. They get softer with use and continue to bring comfort.
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