“Once upon a time there were three little foxes Who didn’t wear stockings, and they didn’t wear sockses, But they all had handkerchiefs to blow their noses, And they kept their handkerchiefs in cardboard boxes.” – A. A. Milne

The men in our family have always carried handkerchiefs. Not the fancy silk models perfectly placed to impress, but the functional variety kept at the ready for work.

These simple squares of fabric offer more than the obvious benefits. They can hold back your wife’s tears at a wedding, clean ice cream off a grandchild’s cheek, and polish your glasses – as well as make-do as a sling, tourniquet, bandage, signal flag, washcloth. It’s a long list.

Mom added a dime, tied securely in one corner so I’d always have money to make a phone call. If you need to ask why a dime was necessary to make a phone call, ask your own mom.

Mine was always washed, ironed, and folded then waiting next to my lunch box so I would’t forget either as I set off on my walk to school.

My mother had installed this ritual for my life the day she caught dad without his at church. Dad and his friends were visiting under a tree when he needed to blow his nose. I’d seen him do it before, he pressed the outside of his thumb against one nostril, tilted his head, then blew.

“K.B. – that’s disgusting,” were her words as she headed for the car. She added, “How could you forget?”

From then on, a handkerchief was now placed on my list of required essentials for any gentleman, along with my wallet, keys, and a pocketknife.

Later, the white permanent-press phase began as ironing was too big a chore for this guy on the move.

Now, in retirement, some of my old childhood bandanas are back. I don’t iron them like mom would have done, but at least they’re clean, folded, and ready.

Last month, while taking a nap, one of the oldest and most cherished fell out on my sofa. When I woke and saw it there I had this crazy idea. I smoothed it out and laid it over the throw pillow I’d never liked. It was perfect,

I could recover the pillow plus brighten the room, all with old childhood bandanas and their memories.

The folks at the shop, where I went for help, had never seen anything like “that” done before. Their customers wanted fancy fabric with fringe and tassels, not old bandanas.

“Too thin and faded,” was their verdict after a thorough examination. They needed something stronger for this job.

Google found my Hav-A-Hanks and now in even more colors than I remember. I ordered too many perhaps, but at just a few bucks a pop, I got carried away.

Louisa loves “her” new pillows.

Now I have a bonus. I’ll get to redecorate more often. Using two at a time, I can change with the seasons. Red and green for Christmas, pink and blue come out in the Spring, earth tones for Fall … Voila … a new room with just a flip and a flop.

See what you started dad? If you had followed the rules, with your handkerchief ready that Sunday, all this would have never happened.

I’d be just another guy taking a tissue from his wife’s bag or cleaning his smudged glasses with his tie.

What’s in your pockets? Do you have a check list before leaving the house?

Tell me what you carry? And not just you guys, what do you gals carry in those big bags?

As always, the conversation starts here.


In this classic short, you’ll find a use for a handkerchief that was not on my list. Take a look at what Spanky and Alfalfa came up with.