Or did she? There's no doubt that Mama always had a fresh handkerchief or two tucked into her purse...and nearly a whole drawer full in her bedroom. She carried them with her always, even after Kleenex became so popular when it was marketed as a substitute for hankies back in the '40s. In fact I don't recall seeing a box of tissues in the house when I was growing up. No, indeed. Ladies carried handkerchiefs, Mama used to insist.
Now I wonder if she really were all that fond of them, or if she just pretended to be because in those days they were still relatively inexpensive, something affordable for a youngster who made her spending money for gifts for Christmas and birthdays through babysitting, and waitressing at Owl Drug Store's lunch counter.
Because no matter what the occasion...even after I became an adult and could afford more elaborate gifts, Mama always claimed that's what she wanted.
"Just get me a card and a hankie," she'd say with a sweet smile. I don't know why I continued to ask, already knowing what she'd answer.
In later years I began to purchase other gifts, mostly her favorite cologne, Emeraude. But I still tucked a hankie into the card. I remember the last one I bought for her. It was in 1983, my first trip to Paris, and I had found a D. Porthault hankie embroidered with the Eiffel Tower.
"Just what I wanted," she exclaimed, eyes lighting up. "How did you ever guess?"
Because it was always what she wanted. Or at least claimed to.
Last month in Paris, I lingered at the handkerchief counter at Galleries Lafayette. I wished I could present Mama with a frilly feminine square tomorrow for Mother's Day. RIP, Luella Alma Burgess French, 7/2/1913 to 1/1/1987.