Where did that ‘kerchief go?

I lift the lid of the washing machine and aaaarrrgh!!!! in frustration. It isn’t a colour leak (thank goodness), BUT it’s something just as bad – a tissue explosion.

As I call out to the children in a bid at finding the culprit who carelessly left that offending piece of paper in their pocket, I wonder how one single piece of tissue could disintegrate into a trillion and one pieces and stick to every single bit of clothing in the washing machine.

In any case, I never was able to forge a relationship with tissue paper. I find myself wincing when I see people rapidly pluck out two, three, four sheets to wipe a little bit of ketchup on their fingers or a child’s tiny nose.

I mean, how much paper do you really need?

Also, whatever happened to good old handkerchiefs?

Handkerchiefs or kerchiefs (as the ‘propah’ folks called them back when being proper was cool) had so much character, no?

They could be soft yet sturdy pinned to a pint-sized kindergartener’s pinafore, or delicate and dainty tucked into a lady’s clutch or large and comforting and so manly in a gentleman’s pocket.

Most often they were simply, stolidly dependable just about anywhere.

Sometimes, they could be grandly monogrammed like those that struck terror in the new Mrs De Winter’s heart. But that’s an aberration. 

Most often, they stand for everything gentle and sweet, dependable and chivalrous.

‘A gentleman should always carry a handkerchief,’ pronounced Robert De Niro in The Intern.

And though Rhett Butler was a self-proclaimed rake he certainly had a gentleman buried in deep somewhere because he carried a handkerchief and offered it to Scarlette too, with a sardonic: “Here, take my handkerchief. Never, at any crisis of your life, have I known you to have a handkerchief.

Now imagine him handing her a box of premium tissues instead. Romance would have died a sad watery death.

While on films, my favourite remains Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. When young Annabel sneezes, Kathleen (Ryan) hands her a handkerchief. And Annabel, clueless little Annabel asks, “What’s that?”. 

And she replies, “A handkerchief. Ah children don’t know what a handkerchief is. It’s a Kleenex that you don’t throw away.” Then goes on to add, “My mother embroidered it for me with my initials and a daisy, because daisies are my favourite flower.”

So many memories, so much love and care all wrapped up in a tiny piece of cloth.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

Millennials and Gen Zers turn up the very noses that kerchief’s have served so faithfully over decades. They swear by the use-and-throw tissue but really, is there even a comparison?

Can tissues double up as scrunchies or bandanas on windy days?
Can you play ‘I sent a letter to my father’ with a tissue?
Can you practice hemming and Lazy Daisy on a tissue?
Can you go to a temple and cover your head with a tissue?
Can a tissue hold the perfume of a loved one?
And can it be preserved as a sweet memory for years, long after love is lost?


Yeah hankies get messy, but at least they don’t dissolve in your hands when coming off from an exceptionally snotty sneeze or sweaty brow.

Also, they don’t need you to cut down trees AND they don’t litter.

Best of all, they don’t hide in pockets and make their way into washing machines and create bedlam in there. They just come out clean and pristine, at your service all over again.

Be a lady/gentleman and put that handkerchief in your pocket.

6 Replies to “Where did that ‘kerchief go?”

  1. Kerchiefs are apparently old-school now. Such nostalgia reading your post. I recall my aunt handing us those embroidered, crochet-trimmed ones each time we visited. Too pretty to use.

  2. Such a lovely, evocative piece! School days…I loved the idea of keeping a handkerchief, however I could never manage it; always lost it. That and an umbrella. My husband always keeps a handkerchief in his pocket.

  3. I am with you totally. Tissues are nothing to good old hankies ( as we called them). Plus, those disposable whiffs of flimsy paper are also an environmental disaster.
    Do they even manufacture hankies any more? I don’t know…but there should be resurgence of this handy bit of cloth that serves so many purposes.

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