The last time I was at Carnegie Antiques I flipped through the pile of handkerchiefs, all different, handmade, store-bought, flowered, embroidered, lace trims, a typical pile of hankies from years past.
I found this one in the pile and recognized the letter “H”, my mother’s first initial. My mother could be difficult to fit with gifts and was often awkward at accepting, but whenever I found a small thing with her initial, mugs, small handbags, shirts, tablets, whatever, I just bought it and gave it to her. She was always pleased with these things and kept them, and it was a quietly happy part of our relationship. They are all long gone now from regular use and from selling her house and its contents.
Even though she died last month I still had the urge to buy this. I initially decided not to—what would I do with it? I have no one to give it to. I am a habitual collector of small things that I then never give up and years ago I cleaned it all out and donated it and can now enjoy looking at something I would formerly have purchased, then let it go, finding I don’t really need it after all.
But I thought about this little handkerchief, such a nicely done pattern of flowers in some of my mother’s favorite colors, and an unusually-shaped letter. I decided that I could continue this little tradition, even if I only keep the handkerchief and other things myself. Perhaps if I collect a number of things, someday I’ll find another daughter who can use a collection of things with her mother’s initial. For now, I have space for this. When I look at it, I think of my mother. That’s enough purpose for me.