Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pretty Little Handkerchiefs

My mother worked the midnight shift as a Charge Nurse in the ER. Working that shift meant my parents didn't have to pay a babysitter for me and my older brother. By the time she had to leave to get to the hospital, she'd fed and bathed us. Then we'd ride in the backseat of the car as my father drove her to work. After she got out of the car, waved to us and disappeared inside, my father wouldn't drive away. The three of us would stay in that car, looking up towards a window overlooking the circular drive. The window was in the office of the Nun in charge. Our mother would get to that window and wave goodbye again. On the way back home it was as if she was still in the car. I could smell her Avon deodorant and whatever she'd used to keep both her hair and starched white cap in place. Besides those familiar scents, I also remember a leather-type bag she always brought back and forth with her. It held books she might be reading. It also held whatever project she was working on; projects that kept her fingers busy and her mind released of some of the stress she was under. Of course I wasn't aware of that stress back then. I just liked riding in the car in my pajamas.

Of all the projects she worked on, her hand-embroidered handkerchiefs amazed me the most. The designs were so dainty. They were mostly little flowers with little leaves. The colors were happy. Beautiful. She kept that bag near a chair by a window in the den. Sometimes I'd sit in that chair. I'd reach in and take out whatever she was working on. If I pulled out knitting needles or embroidery needles I'd spend a few minute pretending I knew how to use them.  I was especially happy when I pulled out those pretty little handkerchiefs. I'd take my finger and follow the stitches. I'd check the other side of the handkerchief which was as neat as the front.

When I was a teenager, we moved to the country. In the afternoons in the summertime I'd do the family ironing. Back then everything was ironed. Even towels and sheets were ironed. Once in awhile my mother would open a top drawer of her dresser. It held all of those pretty little handkerchiefs. She'd gather them and hand-wash each one using Woolite in the kitchen sink. Then she'd lay them on the table. When they were dry, she'd let me iron them after adjusting the temperature. I took my time. I'd take that iron carefully around each cluster of leaves and flowers embroidered in a corner of each handkerchief. I knew how precious they were. I knew the nurse found such pleasure in her work-both as a Charge Nurse in the ER and as a designer of precious little handkerchiefs.

I don't remember her ever actually using one. I think that's because she considered each a piece of art. And I would have to agree.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Magic of a Cookie Jar

When I was growing up we had a Santa Claus ceramic cookie jar that sat on one of the shelves of a free standing service cart-like-thing. It had wheels so you could roll it around from one wall to another or one room to another. My mother always kept it in the kitchen by the back door. Along with that cookie jar she kept the toaster sitting on that stand as well. Both the toaster and the cookie jar always stayed in the same place. Other stuff wasn't permanent. It changed when she needed to get something out of the way.
It never mattered to any of us that it was a 'Santa Claus' cookie jar. What mattered was that it contained cookies all year long.

My grandmother kept her cookies inside a small, free-standing cupboard. It was painted white and it had a counter top. Half of the space in the front of that cupboard was where she kept boxes of cereal. All you had to do was open a small door and make your choice. The other half was comprised of three pull-out drawers. The middle drawer had a tin-like top with holes for ventilation. That's where she kept the cookies. All you had to do was slide that top back to find the cookies. If the cookies weren't homemade, they were either Fig Newtons or Lorna Doones. When my children were growing up, cookies were kept in a drawer in a cupboard. And when my two grandchildren happened along, cookies were kept in a cupboard-until the oldest one fell in love with foxes.

Her infatuation with foxes started awhile back. She is now 7 years old. A few weeks ago I'd been told by her mother that a certain store was carrying Fox ceramic cookie jars. Bingo! A light bulb went off in my head. My thoughts went back to my mother's Santa Claus ceramic cookie jar always sitting in the same place and always full of cookies. I hadn't thought about that cookie jar in years but at that moment, I realized how much I missed it. I realized how much it remains a part of my childhood. It was always there. Whatever else might have been going on; whatever else might have changed, that ceramic cookie jar probably 'Made in China' was sitting there waiting for a little hand to stop, pick up the top half, take a cookie or two, put the top back down and enjoy what that jar had to offer. But it wasn't always a little hand dipping into that jar. You see, my father loved cookies and my father did the grocery shopping so add those two together and you get a full cookie jar at all times full of his favorite cookies.

A few days after leaning about those Fox ceramic cookie jars on sale at a local store, I went shopping. When I came home, I not only had a Fox ceramic cookie jar 'Made in China' but a Fox ceramic cereal bowl and a Fox ceramic plate.  I couldn't help it. They belong together, now sitting on a shelf in an old cupboard in the kitchen, full of homemade Squash cookies waiting for that little fox to make another visit.