There’s an old Irish proverb that says, “always carry two handkerchiefs… one to show and one to blow.” In our modern times, we’ve blown past such simple habits and traditions.
Handkerchiefs remind me of my New Orleans grandmother who had always felt that a lady should never leave home without a cloth handkerchief in her purse (or even wearing gloves for special occasions)! Today, no one ever leaves home without their cell phones even when attending special occasions!
For the younger generation, who have no idea what a handkerchief is, it is a piece of cloth (not a paper tissue) which is usually square in shape, either very plain or highly decorated with embroidery( for women’s use). In the “olden days” men always wore a clean white ironed handkerchief in their suit pocket as that was considered being well-dressed. There was also a very specific folding technique to correctly display the handkerchief in the suit pocket which was meticulously and artfully followed.
Women often had several handkerchiefs in their purses for blowing their noses, for gently patting their moist brows from overexertion, and for fanning themselves when they felt the “vapors” coming on. For the more dramatically inclined female, it was also used to wave farewell to a lover going off to war and to wave goodby to loved ones from a cruise ship. It was also sometimes used as a symbol of surrender during war time.
As you would expect, Miss Manners, the notable etiquette expert on all things proper, does give instructions to the younger generation on the proper use of a hanky:
Miss Manners suspects that the problem might be that the handkerchief is a forgotten artifact, and no one knows how to operate it. So here are the instructions.
There must be a fresh handkerchief every day. It must be kept within easy reach, in an outside pocket or tucked into the cuff or decolletage. The freshly pressed and folded handkerchief is shaken out, time permitting, and the sneeze goes directly into it.
It is then not refolded to look pristine, but returned crumpled to its nesting place. Repeat as necessary.
Miss Manners is confident that people who manage to carry, operate and whip out their electronic devices, will, with practice, be able to master this.
When we traveled through India a few years back (See our Indian travels), we were greeted with the ubiquitous handkerchief. They probably didn’t even know what Kleenex tissue was. As a result, I got a “hankering” (sorry about that) for the old time hanky. It only makes sense to have the handkerchief make a comeback in today’s world. To us, they are more eco friendly and better for the environment.
I consulted an old book I have about handkerchiefs. It recommended that soaking soiled handkerchiefs in salt water (using ordinary table salt) was sufficient to kill the bacteria and viruses that are on the cloth. Afterwards, they are easily washed in your nearly full washer (needing so little space themselves) and washed in cold water. No need for bleach!
Whilst I am reminiscing, I remember my Belgian grandmother always using cloth napkins at every meal. I don’t think I ever saw a paper napkin in her home. And I thought she was just being elegant and classy. But I found out it was a habit carried over from the old country and, undoubtedly, she was also influenced by the need to be frugal as she had gone through WWII in her homeland. The tradition continued all her years here in America. I always thought it was a nice touch. And it didn’t really increase her workload at all. She reused the napkins for family use only (there were eight family members) and only washed the napkins with the family’s clothes once a week. She then would neatly fold them while damp and never would iron them. I don’t think she ever ironed them even with a dryer as they were for family use only. Napkins for guests were treated differently, of course.
This is a tradition that we have always followed in on our homestead. I can’t tell you how many times folks comment how they noticed we don’t have a paper towel dispenser in the kitchen, or when a visitor comes calling and we give them a bite to eat, they certainly notice our cloth napkins. It most certainly makes both economical and eco sense.
What about you? What SMALL changes have you made on your homestead that are having BIG impact?