Cumberland Times-News

Columns

September 22, 2012

It’s another trick that she had up her sleeve

Back in the 1930s, in the house I grew up in, there was a small table in the foyer at the bottom of the steps. We called it the console table, and it held an electric lamp on a doily, with enough room left to collect outgoing or incoming mail. (Which, by the way, got delivered twice a day, Monday through Saturday.)

Even more important, it contained a rather large drawer. A drawer that, if you can get your minds around this, was filled with — handkerchiefs! Five piles of them, to be exact. Big piles. One each for my father, my mother, my two brothers, and myself. Handkerchiefs that you replaced every day, unless you had a cold in which case, they were renewed as needed. My mother faithfully washed them all every week in her wringer washer and ironed them by the dozens , along with the rest of our clothes and linens. (The only tissues known to man in those days were in the bathroom — and even they were not known to all men.)

I had not thought of that drawer for years, and probably never would have again except for an incident a few weeks ago, which reminded me of those good old days — when proper sanitary practice during colds consisted of carrying handkerchiefs around with you until they were, well, used up — and then you put them in the wash.

What happened was that, after a choral society concert, we were packing up to leave, and a good friend, but very young, came chortling back to tell us that, guess what, so-and-so had needed to wipe her nose and had pulled a tissue out from where she had stashed it — her sleeve! (The implication was — horrors!)

“What? You mean, like this?” I said, pulling a tissue out of my own sleeve. The look on her face brought home the fact that different generations grow up with different approaches to everything, and nothing will change that.

She was genuinely shocked to see that I too engaged in the unsanitary practice of carrying around on my person a somewhat less than pristine tissue for awhile. (Until I got to the nearest waste basket.) Which leads me to consider for a moment the various ways different generations deal with storing their germs.

Handkerchiefs are probably the most ancient, time-honored method of dealing with nasal overkill, unless some finicky cavepersons managed to find a few soft leaves somewhere to sop up the excess. And you couldn’t possibly throw away every stained handkerchief! Why, some of them were beautifully embroidered for hours by loved ones who rather gathered that they would look good under disgusting circumstances. So you had to carry them around with you until they could be recycled. Most of us tucked them into our sleeves, some a little more intimately. But I can tell you one thing: unsanitary as it seems to be, carrying your nasal debris round with you for an hour or two in a handkerchief or a tissue doesn’t strike me as nearly so revolting as sneezing into your sleeve or the neck of your shirt, as well-brought up children are instructed to do nowadays.

I can tell you one thing — before I ever take a child by the arm nowadays (always for kindly reasons, of course, unless they’re my grandsons), I am careful to aim for high up on the shoulder or way down on the wrist. Even that seems risky, since after being used repeatedly for a few hours, that sneeze zone probably spreads considerably from the original inner elbow area. At least back in the old days we didn’t wear our sneezes around for the rest of the day!

The more I think of it, the more I suspect that our old way of confining sneezes to cloth handkerchiefs which were then put in the hamper was a cleaner technique than today’s more enlightened one of sneezing into your clothes. If you’re under 30, I suspect you won’t agree with me, but I choose it any time over being dressed in multiple sneezes until I get ready for bed.

Which reminds me of something mostly unrelated but still true: you know what? I haven’t ironed anything in 20 years — and I kind of miss it!

Back when the family was home I had a strict schedule: every Monday I did the wash. Every Tuesday I did the ironing. On Wednesdays I cleaned the first floor. On Thursdays I cleaned the second floor. On Fridays MHTB and I went for a ride in the car together and got reacquainted.

You know, those Tuesdays weren’t all that bad. (Not as good as Friday, not as bad as Wednesday and Thursday.) I am not a housecleaner by nature, so I have never missed that, but gently smoothing over things, well, you know, there’s a lot to be said for it. Cold days and a warm iron (Forget wrinkles in the summer!) — and the magic of seeing flat, even contours take over a crazy quilt of wrinkles — and don’t forget how it all ends up, piles of squeaky clean handkerchiefs enclosed in cocoons of warmth — there’s much to be said for ironing.

Yes, I miss it. And handkerchiefs too!

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.

 

1
Text Only
Columns
  • We concur We concur

    We’re certain that Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, echoes what many Americans feel about the complexity of filing income tax returns.
    When he filed his return, Rumsfeld sent the following letter to the Internal Revenue Service:

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Library week

    Public libraries remain one of the best uses of taxpayer dollars. They are open to all. Young or old, poor or wealthy, residents can use computers and read current magazines and newspapers. Compact discs featuring a wide variety of music and
    movies on DVD may be checked out in addition to novels and other books.

    April 13, 2014

  • Terps need to move and move quickly

    The good news is Maryland will never have to play another basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Goodbye, good riddance, sayonara, smell ya, no more of you, stay classy, we won’t let the door hit us on the way out.
    Until we see you in court.

    April 13, 2014

  • Sunday hunting Sunday hunting

    Legislation that increases hunting oppportunities on Sundays in Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties has passed the Maryland General Assembly and reached the governor’s desk.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • You’ll never guess who the real hero was (He was six feet tall and bulletproof)

    Most folks know about the 20th Maine’s bayonet charge that repulsed the Rebels at Little Round Top because they watched the movie, “Gettysburg.”
    Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy post ourselves a hundred yards or so away from where it happened in real life. Tourists frequently ask us how to find it.

    April 13, 2014

  • Early morning lunar eclipse this Tuesday

    For the first time since 2011, our area may see a total lunar eclipse as the moon will pass through the Earth’s deep shadow.

    April 13, 2014

  • Big bucks How many deer on Green Ridge?

    A study completed in 2013 by a master’s degree candidate at the University of Delaware showed that there are 20 to 30 deer per square mile on the Green Ridge State Forest, including some pretty darn nice bucks.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Then again, he’s manager of the Yankees, and I’m not

    I went to bed confused Wednesday night, which in itself is nothing new. But having
    watched most of the Orioles-Yankees game, including the final three innings, earlier
    in the evening, then watching the late Baseball Tonight before I turned in, I was under the impression that the Yankees had won the game when I was pretty sure before watching the show that the Orioles had won.

    April 11, 2014

  • Who knows how many times she poisoned him?

    My dad used to say that if tobacco and coffee tasted as good as they smelled, the world would be a better place.

    April 5, 2014

  • Rusty writes about the nature of doghood

    I am a dog.
    Therefore I bark.
    I don’t understand why it is so hard for humans to understand this.
    I mean, there are certain things that come with the territory, right?

    April 5, 2014