While helping move Mom last month, I unearthed a number of artifacts from bygone eras—hers and mine.
How can you not love polka dots? They’re whimsical. Cheerful. And in the 1960s when Mom carried this clutch bag and wore these gloves to church, they were a stylish accent to her navy blue spring coat . . . and perhaps a reminder that she hadn’t always had four kids, dinners to cook, and laundry to do.
If you’re not a Baby Boomer, you probably don’t recognize this item. I didn’t recognize it either because math has never been my forté, but it’s my slide rule (look closely—you can see my name on it). Before pocket calculators were invented, we used them for logarithms and trigonometry—skills that I’ve completely forgotten after high school.
When the Apollo 13 space module malfunctioned, Mission Control engineers used slide rules in the calculations needed to get astronauts back to earth. Slide rules! One of the best-known Mission Control engineers was Gene Kranz, the flight director whose famous line in the Apollo 13 movie was, “Failure is not an option.” When Mom and I were talking about slide rules and the near disaster of Apollo 13, Mom mentions in an offhand way, “Yeah, I went to high school with Gene Kranz.” What? Why hadn’t she ever mentioned that before?
Mom knows I collect and use handkerchiefs for my watery eyes, so she offered me this one from my grandma. Mom never carried hankies. Instead she keeps Kleenex in her pocket. If she doesn’t have a pocket, she tucks a Kleenex up her sleeve or in her waistband—something you have to be at least 80 years old to do.
I love old hankies. Before Kimberly-Clark marketed Kleenex in 1924, people relied on handkerchiefs—elegant linen ones for good and simpler cotton ones for everyday. But even after Kleenex became commonplace, the humble hanky remained popular, especially among little old ladies. They were an accessory carried for show, not hygienic use—something that could be embroidered or bordered in lace—a little bit of pretty in a workaday world.
This Thanksgiving, I hope you’re blessed with the treasure of fond memories and stories shared with family over a second cup of coffee and piece of pie.