It’s just a simple, white, cotton hankie with pretty, pink embroidery around the edges. My mom gave it to me, tucked inside a hand-made card of congratulations when Matthew was born.
I thought it was a sweet gesture of kindness and I loved it because it was a gift from my mom.
I didn’t realize the meaning behind the gift until some time later. Ok, I guess I am not the swiftest duck in the pond, because it took me a few trials and tears, before I realized my mom knew exactly what she was doing when she gave me that hankie at the birth of my first and only child.
My mom is not one for symbolism or drama; just plain, old, this is the way it is….words rarely spoken, but more often feelings told in actions. So this should come as no surprise that this was her practical way of telling me: welcome to motherhood, with all the tears of joy, love and sharing; but sometimes tears of pain and sadness that being a mother is bound to bring you. I just didn’t recognize that at first.
I placed that dainty hankie on the bedroom dresser. It made such a pretty old-fashioned display there and it was a reminder of my mom’s love. However, it wasn’t long before I began to think of that little hankie in a completely different light.
When it was time for Matthew’s first immunizations, and I heard his cry of pain, I cried. No, not running-down-your-face tears, just the kind that well up inside of you and you fight to hold back, so the nurse doesn’t think you have emotional issues or something. But I wished I had brought that hankie with me.
Baby dedication; didn’t bring it. I most likely didn’t even think of it; but it was a moving ceremony beginning the days, turned to years of constant reminders that Matthew did not really belong to me. Reminders, that most often require hankies.
I cried the day I saw Matthew run after his daddy’s semi-truck, as his dad headed down the road on his next long-haul run. Matthew was just little and his heart was breaking as he saw his dad leave one more time. This was his effort in a last good-bye. I remembered my little handkerchief.
I thought of that hankie when alone one night, I cried out to God in grief and frustration over my son’s heart, wounded by “friends” that were less than kind, often making Matthew the brunt of their jokes. “I know your tears,” the Lord said to me. “But be thankful he is the one being made fun of and not the one that is making fun.” I was comforted by that, thereafter and that little hankie remained on my dresser.
When we had to put two of our dogs to sleep, I thought of my little hankie. When we attended the funerals of our neighbors who were like grandparents to Matt; I thought of my little hankie. Why didn’t I bring it?!
Then the biggest tragedy of my families’ life occurred, which brought grief and sorrow to deep to write. This time, as I headed out the door to my nephew’s funeral - my brother’s son, Matthew’s cousin and best friend - I grabbed that little hankie as I thought about tears,heartbreak, and much, much more. Matthew and I both needed it that day.
From that point on, the little hankie became more than a symbolic act of love. It was a much needed item to endure motherhood. I needed it when Matt lost his Lady. I needed it when he told me life plans, and heart issues.
I carried it with me, when Matt was promoted to Commander of his Civil Air Patrol Squadron. I was not certain I would need it then, but I carried it just in case. When the Ceremony of Change of Command was finished and they spoke those words, “…by order of Captain Matthew C……” my heart leaped, tears sprang, and I reached for my little hankie.
Now as my son’s high school years are about to come to an end; and he begins to make plans for his life, I think of that simple, white handkerchief quite a lot. I know I will need it at his high school graduation…and it is for sure I will need it if Matt is accepted into the Coast Guard Academy. But then again, I will also need it if he is not accepted.
Hopefully, there will be another graduation, other promotions, a wedding, and grandkids, and many, many tears of joy and celebration. I don’t want to think of any other kinds of tears. My hankie has done its job. My mom knew what she was doing and I love her so much for that. That awesome thoughtfulness on her part always makes me smile. That’s my mama. Someday, I hope to pass on a dainty white hankie to another very special mommy; but first, I am going to hold on to my son’s transition from childhood and that hankie for just a bit longer.