Why my husband carries a handkerchief

We were outside Saturday evening with the neighbors, watching the kids zoom around on their bicycles as the sky faded from gold to rose to navy. One of Eleanor’s friends sneezed, and his mom dug into her pockets for a tissue. She didn’t have one. So the other moms dug into their pockets, but we didn’t have any either.

“I have a handkerchief,” Greg said.

Someone commented on how old-fashioned that is, how most men carrying handkerchiefs fall into the over-75 age bracket.

“I always have one,” Greg said.

And he does. I have allergies, and so for at least six months out of the year my eyes are watering and my nose dripping. Plus, after we had Eleanor, we learned that parents always need some form of rag with them, be it burp cloth or baby wipe. You will be inundated with vomit or snot or some other bodily fluid when you are least prepared, and if you don’t have a rag, well, there goes your shirt.

But I think now, he mainly carries it because of Genevieve. Back in the spring, the hospital where I delivered her held a memorial service for all of the families who had lost infants. Each mom received a handkerchief, so now I have one in my purse as well.

Even after more than a year of adjusting to life without her, I still sometimes dissolve into a blubbering mess. I’ll see a mom at the park with two daughters who are the same ages as my girls would have been. I’ll pass a house with pink and blue balloons tied to the porch and a driveway full of cars. A friend will announce her pregnancy, filled with all the hope that regular moms have. I will never get to be a regular mom again. Sometimes I’m crying for all of the hope that I’ve lost just as much as I’m crying for my daughter.

For parents like Greg and I, handkerchiefs aren’t an antiquated habit. They’re a tool of the trade.

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