Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ruth's Handkerchiefs

Her name was Ruth, and she liked handkerchiefs.

No, scratch that.  She loved handkerchiefs.

Seriously, the picture shows about one-third of the hankies that came home with me, just from the one estate sale.  Ruth, whoever she was, had very good taste and loved her hankies, especially the ones with flowers.

Daffodils and Daisies


I had to find out more about what fueled this sort of passion, so I started doing some online research on the humble handkerchief and discovered how it evolved from something with which to wipe your nose or your eyes, to a tiny work of art.   The hankies Ruth collected were in their heyday during the 1940s and 1950s, some of the vintage hanky websites told me, when women could freshen up a drab wartime wardrobe with these small splashes of color.  They carried hankies with red, white and blue designs in honor of servicemen far away.  

Ruth had hankies for every occasion, every holiday.  At Christmas she could carry any of more than a dozen Christmas designs, including these.

Reindeer Conga Line with More Poinsettias
Ruth, like many women in the 1930s through 1950s, crocheted borders on her plain handkerchiefs.   Among her collection was a pamphlet dated 1931, explaining how to add these colorful edges to liven up a plain square of cloth.

Apparently Ruth spent a lot of time doing this over the years.

The Internet is blanketed with vintage handkerchiefs.  I found them on Pinterest, and on sale sites like etsy and eBay.  I found well over a dozen websites that chronicle the history of hankies, and even more that show modern uses for them.  Vintage hankies are very popular with collectors.  Modern-day brides have their wedding invitations printed on vintage hankies, so the guests will have something to wipe away the tears of joy.   Seamstresses and crafters use hankies to make clothing, curtains, wall hangings and more.  Vintage hankies can be made into baby caps, with the idea that when the child grows up and is married, the hanky can be "something old" for the bride to carry up the aisle. 

So a hanky, small as it is, can be an important part of a larger whole.

Looking up the uses of vintage hankies reminded me of a classic scene from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, as Meg and Jo leave the house for a party:

"Have a good time, dearies!" said Mrs. March, as the sisters went daintily down the walk. "Don't eat much supper, and come away at eleven when I send Hannah for you." As the gate clashed behind them, a voice cried from a window...

"Girls, girls! Have you you both got nice pocket handkerchiefs?"

"Yes, yes, spandy nice, and Meg has cologne on hers," cried Jo, adding with a laugh as they went on, "I do believe Marmee would ask that if we were all running away from an earthquake."

"It is one of her aristocratic tastes, and quite proper, for a real lady is always known by neat boots, gloves, and handkerchief," replied Meg, who had a good many little 'aristocratic tastes' of her own.

I wonder what Meg and Jo's pocket handkerchiefs looked like?  Whatever style they were, we know Ruth, like Marmee, would have approved. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Record of Happiness

I don't know what her name was.  I do know she was in love in 1935.

Not everything from her estate sold during the two "official" days of the sale.  So the estate sale company posted a notice online:  Everything left in the house would be given away at no charge on a first-come, first-served basis.

Naturally I took advantage of this offer.  

I found, among a pile of used books and office supplies, three pages torn from her old diary.  Just three pages.  They must have been the most important ones, the ones she made sure she saved.   Her survivors didn't treasure them like she did.  So I did.

I didn't take the time to read the three pages until I got home.  They are the (partial) story of her romance, set in the midst of  the Great Depression.

Tuesday, June, 11, 1935

11:00 p.m. The chimes are just striking.  Only 45 minutes ago I said good-bye to Burke.  I have no idea when I'll see him again.  It may be the end of another chapter in my life -- I hope not, but it may be.  Things look very dark -- I wish I could see ahead, but perhaps it is better that I cannot.  It is strange how "alone" a parting can make one feel.  Close friends are so few in this world & so dear.... I think I'd better get into bed & to sleep before I begin "slopping over."

Monday, July 22, 1935

Had 3 letters from Burke today.  He has a job!  Not so much of a one to begin with but it has a future -- with Standard Oil.  He is very happy about it & is actually making plans for the future -- that's something for him.  I'm so happy about this!  He wants me to come in fall if the job works out all right & he likes it.  He writes:

"I'm sure you'll like it out here and at least we can start by ourselves and build our own little world."

Does that sound like a proposal of marriage?  Is it just that distance lends enchantment -- or has he discovered that he really needs me? 

Perhaps this year will be quite interesting before it is over.  But I am very happy tonight.

Tuesday, September 3, 1935

Tonight is a very special night.  I wrote to mother & dad and told them I'm going to be married the first week in October.  Mother has thought of it already, but I wonder what Dad will say.  Told Mrs. Rudolph tonight that I'm leaving the 15th.  It all seems rather hazy yet -- it doesn't seem like it's really true.  It is hard to realize that I will be married in a little over a month.  Only 10 more days to go of work.  Wonder what Townsend will say? 

It's all like a dream, but it's a dream coming true!

I don't know what her name was.  I do know I'm glad she wrote down her love story as it unfolded.   Because now I can apply the Sonnet 18 theory to her words, and the words of her loved one, once destined for a green recycling bin if someone didn't rescue them.

William Shakespeare -- even though he never dreamed of cyberspace as a library for the memories of love -- was right!

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Write down the story of your love.  Even if you don't share it with anyone else.  Write it down.