Weekly Writing Challenge: Object: My Grandma’s Hanky

It was in a bag of linen I had taken from my grandmother’s house after her death. I had carried the bag around with me on my numerous moves and never given it more than a cursory look. The day came about a year ago when I finally decided that I was going to rid myself of all clutter and it was the bag’s turn to go. Luckily I decided to go through the contents, just to be sure there was nothing I really had to have.

There were mainly dressing table doilies of all types. Crotcheted, embroidered, lace. You name it, it was there and so was the most exquisite silk handkerchief. It was the size of a man’s hanky made in such fragile-looking transparent silk that would never have soaked up any nasal contents. It was a green of a hue that is incredibly beautiful but hard to describe being neither a forest green nor a lime green nor a lemon green. Drawn on it with pencil-like strokes which  had then been coloured were pictures of ladies and birds and love messages.

What a find!  I decided it was a love hanky from WWI. My grandfather had fought in the war. Injuries from it had eventually led to his death. I must have found a hanky that my grandmother had sent him as a reminder of her to him in the trenches.  She probably  soaked it in her favourite scent and, as he lay there in the stench of war, he could take it from his top pocket and breathe in my grandmother. The hanky even reminded me of her as I remembered her. She had such soft skin, the type you wanted to touch, like a horses’s nose.  She was under five feet tall and had an air of fragility about her.

With great care I folded the hanky and put it in a plastic bag in my bottom drawer where I keep all my delicate clothes and there it stayed until the antique valuer came to town.

The town’s historical society had organized his visit to raise money for a charitable cause by giving the value and possibly the history of articles for a small donation. I ate lunch whilst I waited my turn. It was like antiques road show where the anticipation was palpable and the amazement on the faces of those before me when they found out their treasures’ value was as good to see as the treasure itself had been to look at.

Finally it was my turn. I unwrapped my hanky and he took it reverently. “It’s beautiful” he said “Do you know its history?” I went through what I had surmised. “I don’t think it is that old” he said. “ It’s so delicate it is definitely European. I think it’s late 40s perhaps early 50s. It’s a scarf rather than a handkerchief. The type of thing that girls would knot around their throats in rock and roll days. It is so delicate and the type of illustration makes me think it must be French in origin.”

At that point I saw a little label I had not seen before sewn into the hem of the article. “Look” I cried “there is a label”. Before he could see it I had lifted it up and read for all the crowd to hear “Made in Japan”. You could feel his embarrassment. I could feel Roger’s embarrassment that I had yelled it out for all to hear. I was dismissed very quickly after that. The other article that I had taken was spurned curtly: “not worth a penny”.

I left feeling very happy. Okay, so it wasn’t a love hanky but maybe one of my relatives – maybe Auntie Margot – loved dancing as much as I do. I started seeing the dance halls in my mind’s eye and, if I ever go to another rock and roll night, I will wear my handkerchief which is once again is carefully placed in my bottom drawer.




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About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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38 Responses to Weekly Writing Challenge: Object: My Grandma’s Hanky

  1. andy1076 says:

    I’d like to believe, that it is the memories we hold that infuse items with so much sentimental value and beauty 🙂


  2. What a wonderful story. You put a smile on my face this evening Irene. Thank you.


  3. librarylady says:

    I have things I think are treasures, but would rather not find out if they’re not. This was funny, and you still have a great keepsake.


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  6. garden98110 says:

    Once we begin to deconstruct our writing, we begin listening to the voice that is our own writer’s signature. As a narrator and storyteller we can adopt different points of view, dialects, emotional tone and presence. The voice of the writer is the story, too. Have you noticed the voices of good storytellers embrace us and include us, until the writer’s voice dissolves into the story? This is a good story, Irene.

    Sincerity, like silence, is more rare than we notice. There is an innocence to irony, always effective in description. The root of the word ‘irony’ comes from the ancient Greek, “dissembling,” then its (Socratic) use came to mean, “simulated ignorance.” When we are ironic, we use the opposite wording of what we mean in an innocent manner to emphasize our point.

    Our writer’s voices can carry us over the deep we would not attempt to cross with our eyes wide open. Sarcasm is irony with the intent to ridicule. Sometimes a writer’s voice will turn sarcasm against itself. Sarcasm and ridicule are beasts trained with cruelty, likely to turn on their nearest victim. You have a strong and useful writer’s sense of irony. Have you tried writing an essay alternating tones of irony and sarcasm?

    Irony is especially evident when we are nesting stories within stories, like Russian matryoshka dolls. Life is a mystery. Things that are not things containing each other are inexplicably complementary opposites. Irony is a comfortable segue into paradox. I count at least five stories in eight paragraphs within your story. How many do you count? Is each story told in the same writer’s voice? — THGg


    • You always get me thinking THGg. I have to admit I write without a lot of thought, do a bit of editing and publish. I do enjoy your analysis of my work and it gets me thinking. You are quite right there are at least 5 possibly six stories. There are certainly at least two voices, an adult and a child. I have been told a few times from people that know me that when they read my work they feel as though they are there with me having a conversation. I love your thought “Sincerity, like silence, is more rare than we notice.” I agree with you totally on this.
      I do like using irony for humorous effect. It is probably my natural way of expressing myself but I certainly don’t use it to be cruel or if it comes across that way it is certainly unintended. However, as an exercise I may try your suggestion of an essay alternating tones of irony and sarcasm. If I do and I’m reasonably happy with effect I will publish for your comment.
      Thanks as always for your thought provoking observations. Cheers Irene


      • garden98110 says:

        No Irene. In the Healing Garden, we absolutely do not think you are cruel. For a writer’s voice, the use of irony is a good tool. You have a wonderful natural sense of irony in your stories.

        As I become more aware of the nuance of irony in my narrative, I have more control of it on command in my writing. I find less that my irony doubles back on myself as self critical. I did have second thoughts posting, thinking, maybe your writer’s challenge is to fight a block. And my comment is only another brick in the wall.

        Our comments are meant to encourage and provoke thought (we are half way there, I guess). There is a good deal of thought in your writing already. An essay, like a watercolor, relies on the artist to know when to leave well enough alone. We enjoy your writing very much “from the other side of the world”. — The Healing Garden gardener


      • THGg, No I didn’t think you thought me cruel and I appreciate your comments greatly. I think the only way to grow is to have nourishment and your comments provide this for me. As you say being able to control and have the ability to use on command various types of tools of literature would be a huge benefit to my writing. That is why I go to writers’ workshops when I can to have exercises presented that will allow me to stretch myself that little bit further. I’m thinking on that essay and I think you’ll definitely see one in the future.
        I’m glad you are enjoying your visits to me from the other side of the world and I am enjoying your comments. Cheers Irene


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  14. Sherri says:

    Oh I love this story Irene, you had me from start to finish, just lovely and a great twist at the end. Ha Ha, I can just imagine the valuer’s face and his curt response to your next item! I will forever be reminded of you rockin’ and rollin’ the night away with your Auntie’s neck scarf tied beautifully around your neck from now on!
    But what jumped out at me and brought a little tear to my eye in a totally unexpected burst of emotional surprise was this: ‘She had such soft skin, the type you wanted to touch, like a horse’s nose’. For a moment there I saw my own grandmother who had the most beautiful, soft skin unlike anything I’ve ever felt and I missed her very keenly indeed…


  15. Glynis Jolly says:

    I didn’t expect your story to end like that. Fantastic story, Irene.

    I’ve always had suspensions about those who advertise so blatantly about their knowledge of antiques. I prefer to go to one of the antique shops I trust and ask the owner what he thinks. The couple of times I’ve done this, he wouldn’t give me any answers right away. He wanted to study the pieces for a day or two.


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  17. sue marquis bishop says:

    A story to make us smile and remember not to take ourselves too seriously.. loved it… Irene.. sue


  18. Jenni says:

    I think tokens that hold memories of those we’ve loved and lost and of times past are worth so much more than whatever monetary value an ‘expert’ may attribute to them. It is a lovely gift to have that connection with your past and I’m sure you treasure it just as much as you would have had it turned out to be of financial worth. I have a scarf ring that my grandmother used often, it’s one of those adjustable rings and it has a pressed dried flower under glass as its setting – I love it even though it is not the finest piece of jewelry ever made. Thank you for sharing your story.


    • Thanks Jenni. Yes the sentimental value is worth much more. I didn’t take it for the monetary value but more for the donation it would give to charity and probably also to confirm that I had surmised correctly on what the handkerchief was. Like your scarf ring those memories cannot have a value placed on them. Thanks for commenting and also following. I will get over to visit you in the near future. Cheers Irene


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  23. litadoolan says:

    Wonderful mix of history and emotion in the post. Loved it.


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