Early morning quiet is marred only by outside sounds of cracking ice on the lake and shivers of shingles on my roof. This weather is Siberian deep freeze weather in Minnesota.  It’s wool socks, hat and gloves weather. Flannel pajamas and night caps help ward off the winter chill of icy percale sheets and drastically dipping temperatures.

Today is winter cold weather with folks coughing, stuffed noses, throbbing sinus, fever and chills!  Achoo!  Kerchoo!  It’s handkerchief weather, but where does one purchase those soft cotton squares embroidered with flower, names and letters favored by moms in the 1950s?   

Sure, Kleenex is in abundant supply at the stores, but a tender nose, ballooned and reddened with repeated blowing and sneezes soon rebels when wiped these rough paper tissues thrown away after a single use.  I reach for the pile of dainty squares of cotton hankies left in mom’s top drawer of her vanity chest.  The pillowed pile sits next to Esther’s jar of Lady Esther face cream with the pink screw off cover and boxes of costume jewelry. Uncle Arthur, the jewelry salesman from the Cities, always brought jeweled presents when he came for a visit.

Cotton handkerchiefs were tossed into the Maytag, our noisy, churning washing machine, washed, then hung on the drying line stretched between pipes in the basement.  Some fastidious housekeepers ironed these tiny hankies.  But with today’s washers and dryers, it’s no hassle to wash and fold the tiny cotton squares.  And the comfort they afford my nose is well worth the extra effort.

Remember, moms used to tuck their hankies in their apron pockets or the sleeves and tops of their housedresses, often times enhancing their bosoms.  Lacy handkerchiefs and hats seem to have disappeared, except for weddings and funerals.  But comfort doesn’t have to disappear.

Bring back the handkerchiefs!  Remember those red and blue bandanas that farmers used in the fields to mop their sweat-stained brows while haying? Remember dad’s extra-sized white handkerchief stuffed into his back pocket?  They were very practical.  When I have a terrible cold that makes my brow and sinuses throb and my nose run constantly, I grab one of dad’s large white hankies.  There’s comfort in the soft cotton cloth as well as the reflections of dad that the hanky brings to mind.

When Mom saw me sniffling and running a fever with my flushed face and sweaty ringlets springing around my chubby face, she searched in the bathroom’s medicine chest, with the mirrored front, for the blue and green Vicks bottle.  Immediately, I could sense the pungent medicinal smells drifting towards my nose with its powerful healing powers.  Swabbing the oily salve under my sore nose, she proceeded to coat my chest with the healing power of Vicks, then pin a warm wool sock of dad’s around my neck.

Mom would suggest that I put on my thick flannel jammies and crawl into bed.  She’d cover me with a hand-stitched patchwork quilt, stuffed with cotton batting, lined with flannel.  Esther’s cold remedy also called for squeezing a plump, yellow lemon on her glass grater, heating water, and mixing the sour lemon juice, hot water and ample sugar in a tall glass then bringing it to me in bed.  I’d drink the sweet concoction, feeling the warmth trickle down my throat and into my tummy, bringing healing powers to my body.  In a day or two, at the most, I’d be fit as a fiddle.   

Esther’s remedy was a sure cure. What do you think was the strongest medicine, the Vicks, the hot, freshly-squeezed lemon juice, her cozy patchwork quilt or mom’s loving care?  Nothing beats a mom’s love for her kids.  Mom’s cold remedies still work for me and my family.