Category Archives: women

Hankies

P1100171Once in Sunday School a missionary’s talk tugged at my ten-year-old heartstrings  and my eyes and nose started leaking. My own Sunday School teacher Mrs. Montgomery saw my predicament and pressed her clean hankie into my hand. I was initiated.

My grandmother probably owned quite a few handkerchiefs, but she liked modern conveniences like Kleenex, and I suspect that her cloth versions lay in a drawer, waiting to be passed on to me. Where I grew up on a farm, I never saw one.

Until I inherited Grandma’s I might have owned just this one I had bought iP1100172n Turkey, the oddest handkerchief I have ever encountered. I must not have had much experience after that missionary talk, or I would have known better than to buy a handkerchief with a grid of heavy stitching all over it, seemingly designed to irritate a nose that might already be red and raw. I keep it now only as a memento.

My mother-in-law also left many pretty examples, some of which look like they have been well used, but I think not by her. She likely inherited many from her mother and aunts, who were known to make things like this. I think this dark blue hankie must be a homemade one.

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I’ve been using hankies from all these womenfolk for at least fifteen years now, glad to stop having tissues in my pocket, because one would too frequently get into the washing machine and turn to shreds, making a mess on dark clothes. I’ve heard that the soft and sheer cloth that most of these are made from is easier on your skin than facial tissue – Do you think that is a myth?

My husband wanted to sP1100167top using paper tissues so I made him quite a few of these plaid handkerchiefs out of an old skirt of mine. He typically had one sticking out of his back pocket, and now I’ve inherited this collection, too.

There may be dust bunnies on my floors and dishes in the sink, but I always take the time to iron my hankies and handkerchiefs, and to have a stack of them downstairs and handy for when I go out, especially on a walk or in cold weather when the cold front meets the warm front….

Jeans and hiking boots are often my style, and in the backpacking era I’d have had a bandanna along, but nowadays when I reach into my pocket on frosty mornings it will be to find a dainty hankie that is a most practical accessory, and serves the added purpose of keeping me in mind of my foremothers.

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When Husbands Die

Soon after my husband’s death I read When Husbands Die by Shirley Reeser McNally. The author who was a widow herself surveyed a group of women who had been widowed within the previous ten or more years, and organized their responses into a book. 

It was what I needed to read at the time, a sort of controlled support group, where I didn’t have to interact in real time with anyone, but could glean comfort from hearing from women who were in the same situation and who knew what I was going through. It’s strange, when I think about it, that an experience that is so common to humanity, the death of one’s spouse, can be so outrageous and solitary and impossible to prepare for.

One reason for the solitary aspect is the uniqueness of every relationship, and of each griever. This collection of women’s stories was interesting in that the women were all educated and able to write articulate and thoughtful responses to the questions, whether they were in their first months of grieving or years down the road. Most of them did not have to struggle financially, even if their husbands had died fairly young.

Shortly after reading the book I told people that it was something like reading a sociology textbook, and a little dry, but now I think, wasn’t that what I needed? I certainly didn’t want to read anything dramatic about someone else’s trauma. C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed was not as helpful, partly because it was only one person’s story, and that of a man, one who hadn’t been married very long. I am a woman who had been married a long time.

I especially liked hearing from women who were at a later stage of grief, about how their lives had changed over the years since their husbands had died, and the ways in which they had built new lives that were good. I went back this week and reviewed the passages I’d highlighted on my Kindle. Here are a few of those favorites:

“…the shared stories indicate that women must work through three to five years of grief and change before they feel well on their way to a recovered, reinvented life. The hard work of grieving must be accomplished before healing takes place.”

“…disorientation, fatigue, loss of self-confidence, feelings of abandonment, shock, and bone-deep sadness.”

“…our culture…is not open to the commonality of death, and how important it is that we come to terms with it in our lifetime.”

“I think women are better able to cope. We are greater realists and more skilled at accepting change as part of life because of our biological natures: monthly changes, pregnancy, childbirth, etc. Widowers tend to remarry sooner. They don’t know how to nurture themselves.”

“Is it ever possible to have no regrets; to have accomplished all you wanted to do; to have said everything, done everything? No. Omissions you recall later may bring sadness, sometimes guilt, until you understand that it was important for you and your husband to do things in your own way. That’s the only way you and he had.”

“…dying is something each of us has to do alone, at least in a human sense? The moment must come when, in dying, we move beyond our surroundings into another space.”

“…it is a sudden time, when things must be left unsaid and undone.”

Edith Schaeffer

Edith Schaeffer died today!

I only heard by just now reading this blog post, from a friend of mine whose mother and I are friends and fellow home-lovers. Edith Schaeffer through two of her books, What is a Family and The Hidden Art of Homemaking, helped me in many ways to develop my own style and philosophy of homemaking.

Several particular principles and practices, from the importance of caring for the sick to table decorating, became part of my being and contributed to the joy of being the woman of my home. She was the first decidedly Christian person I read who understood the importance of beauty in the home, and she gave many (I remember I thought almost too many!) examples of how one might create a home environment that was rich in all the important things, even if worldly riches were lacking.

I am very thankful for this sister in Christ. May she rest in peace, and may her memory be eternal.

Sorting lentils and words and….

A Woman Cleaning Lentils

A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black. A stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a stone, a lentil, a lentil, a word.
Suddenly a word. A lentil.
A lentil, a word, a word next to another word. A sentence.
A word, a word, a word, a nonsense speech.
Then an old song.
Then an old dream.
A life, another life, a hard life. A lentil. A life.
An easy life. A hard life, Why easy? Why hard?
Lives next to each other. A life. A word. A lentil.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black one, pain.
A green song, a green lentil, a black one, a stone.
A lentil, a stone, a stone, a lentil.  

— Zahrad

I found this provocative poem on this blog post, and have been keeping it in the back of my mind until today when I read a comment by Celeste on this blog post, about her own need to “re-sort.”

The household and garden chores that I pile up around me every day, the practical love for husband and children and grandchildren, the worship of God in His Church such as I enjoyed this morning, the good books and blogs I read, the writing I am compelled to do — they all seem to be represented and connected for me in the images of these lines.

Here I am, once again in the middle of trying-not-to-be-frantic trip preparations, but God gave me an extra hour this afternoon, which meant I could eat some leftover frittata and read a comment on a blog, and look what happened! More sorting of thoughts and realities, with the unspoken urge to order my affections aright and find His peace and strength for the next few hours and days.

Suddenly a word. 

A life.