When it’s too nice to nap indoors, I take an old knotted comforter to the back edge of the garden, near tomato leaves I crush for a last whiff of summer. Crickets chorus round me and the combine’s racket turns to a purr the barn cats pick up, settling near my head. It’s then I look up at the cosmos, struck by their petals, mandarin orange against blue sky. The underside shines radiant as monarch wings or the stained glass of sun through tissue paper. Resting by County Road N 400 W, I forget laundry on the line, supper to fix. For hours I’ve been napping. Now I am awake.
Eve got off the bus in tears the day her third grade teacher scolded her for using a hankie. “It’s not sanitary,” she said. Miss Pauley had no notion of what a handkerchief means to us: reusable tissue, wash cloth, gripper of lids, wiper of smudgy glasses, emergency bandage, keepsake we carry to the grave. Peekaboo with a hankie triggered Eve’s first laugh, and later she sat through sermons watching Grandma Yoder fold a flat square into a butterfly or mouse. Now Eve does that for her sister and knots Ruth’s Sunday pennies in a corner like a hobo’s sack. She irons and stacks all the hankies in our drawers and brings a bandanna drenched with cold water to her dad who ties it round his neck. Last Christmas she gave me a set of four lacy kerchiefs embroidered by her own hand, each with my initials and a leaf or flower to signify the season. Straight from a city college, Miss Pauley could only count the virtues of a Kleenex. “Like a lot of things, hankies grow softer as they age,” I said, using one to wipe Eve’s tears.