Editor’s note: Verna, our great-grandma author/blogger, tells this sweet story about playing the game of “drop the handkerchief” as a child. Much later she learned the original meaning of the child’s game. Our relationships with our mothers are a little like that game: In later years we may look back on our childhood interactions with our mothers and realize that the daily give-and-take was really about love: dropping hints, picking up words and habits and challenges, running with longing and hope, and making memories that would last a lifetime.
When I was very young, family size was large, and houses were small. Children spent most of their days playing outdoors in the street or vacant lots. My favorite game was “Drop the Handkerchief.” As I recall, we formed a large circle, then the person who was “it” walked around the outside and dropped a square of white cloth to the ground behind whomever they chose. That individual would pick up the hanky and chase around, racing to see who could occupy the vacant spot. It was exciting and great fun!
The year a deep depression hit the entire country, we had few luxuries. Mother’s only hobby was collecting fancy handkerchiefs. She had a few from her youth–fancy white squares of delicate cloth with colored lace trim and embroidery in one corner. She kept these treasures in a drawer, neatly folded, with perfumed sachets. I recall her loaning one with delicate blue hand-crocheted trim in fine thread, for me to carry on my wedding day. Never, ever was one of these hankies used for a practical purpose.
One day, years later, I said, “Mom, why do you prize the collection of hankies so much? You never use them.”
“Well, not now, hon.” Her dreamy eyes seemed to travel back into the past. “When I was young, a girl needed these treasures so she could meet boys. When we left church or some other function, if we saw a boy we would like to know better, we would simply drop a hanky at his feet. The boy responded by picking it up and graciously returning it or putting it in his pocket and at a later date he would show up at your door and return the possession. We always had a porch swing a boy and a girl could use to have some privacy.”
“You think the game I played all those years ago came from that?” I asked.
“I think so!” she said.
I laughed. To think that all those happy hours when I chased a boy around in a circle I was really playing a “Game of Love” and didn’t know it.
~ Verna Hill Simms