Sunday, January 13, 2013
My Hankie Collection and Thelma's "Wedding Scarf"
*This is a "blast from the past" repeat of a post I did originally in January 2010. Have a lovely sunday morning!
I have been collecting hankies since I was a teenager. I especially love roses and vintage floral designs.
I also have two plain white ones that I use for weddings or special occasions. One is made of Batenburg lace and the other has a delicate hand-tatted edging.
My most sentimental hankie was gift given to me by a dear 95 year-old woman named Thelma. I met her when I was 19 and working as a front office secretary at a busy inner-city medical clinic. She was one of those "shiny happy people", who brighten up the room whenever they walk through the door. She was always dressed in bold, vivid prints and wore her snow white hair in a spunky page-boy with bangs.
Sometimes when I would get a break from the phones, we would have a moment or two to talk and I learned a little bit about her life. She was a widow who had been married for over 60 years. She always longed for a little girl of her own, but sadly had been unable to have children. Now she was all alone and was trying to decide whether to go into an assisted living home.
One day she came in and handed me a small, white box. I opened it up and found the most beautiful hand-tatted and embroidered hankie I had ever seen. It had yellowed in places with age, but was so delicate and filmy, it looked like it was woven of dandylion silk.
Thelma proceeded to tell me it was her "wedding scarf", and that her mother had given it to her and it was originally handed down from her great-grandmother.
Thelma took my hands in hers. Looking intently into my eyes, she asked if I would promise to use it in my own wedding, take care of it and pass it on to the next generation. I took the honor and the weight of my promise very seriously and carried it tucked in my bouquet six years later when Tony and I walked down the isle.
Like Thelma, I never had children of my own and I have kept the hankie wrapped carefully in tissue paper, waiting for a special young woman to come along. I trust I will know her when I see her. I hope she will value the small piece of cloth and the loving memory of all the women who have held it close for comfort and courage on their most special of all days.
I did a little math once to try and figure out the approximate age of the hankie. Thelma was 95 in 1983 when she gave me the gift. So that means she was born in: 1888. Her mother would have been born probably in the 1860's, her grandmother in the 1840's. So the great-grandmother who made the hankie was probably born sometime in the 1820's.
It is amazing to think of all that has happened and how the world has changed and yet this little yellowed cloth hankie still survives. It is one of the most precious and oldest thing I own and I wish that I had more of the details to pass along with it. I have filled in the blanks with my own imagination through the years and feel connected to these women as if they were my own family.
It also makes me wonder sometimes if any of the things I have made, will survive long enough to be handed down, or put into someone's treasure box? I hope so. :)