Smooth Past
By Janet Brice Parker

I was just under five feet tall. Standing over the lavatory, I watched delicate colors meander in and around soapy water. The white porcelain bowl was filled with fresh smelling bubbles and floral ladies’ handkerchiefs. Every woman and girl folded them into white or black plastic purses, depending upon the season. The closures on our pocketbooks were snapped and our necessities complete. These feminine accoutrements were given to us as presents, for birthdays or Christmas. Mama thought they were a requirement, so I left them in my purse to be soiled by pencils and sticky candy.

A fist full of handkerchiefs rubbed against an open palm and then alternated to the other hand. The routine I had observed when my Mama and her sister washed out scarves and underwear. I repeated this process and gazed at my youthful face in the mirror . A clean mountain breeze greeted the window and blew my strawberry blonde bangs to one side. I thought about my “Buster Brown” haircut and how it didn’t go with those frilly patterns of delicate colors.

Soap suds evaporated as rinse water disappeared down the drain. I held two corners and lifted the first handkerchief. Water poured from the gauzy piece of cloth. My face was no longer visible as I placed pinks and blues onto the smooth surface of the medicine cabinet mirror. My small hands spread the square and pushed out air bubbles. The fanciful fabric clung to it’s image like a magnet. It was a short cut. Ironed handkerchiefs without the ironing. The activity intrigued me. A child’s entertainment.

Occasionally, the colorful material would loosen itself from a drying place and float to the floor. But most of the time, I had the pleasure of pealing the stiff crisp cloths from their smooth surfaces and folding them into smaller squares. Ready for drawers and our purses later on.

I don’t carry pretty handkerchiefs in my bag anymore. Mama still does. She gives them to me as gifts and I put them away.

I grab paper towels off of the roll and cry into them. I cover my face and cry tears of age and the wearing of life. I was happy when I spread handkerchiefs on the mirror to dry. And Daddy was in the next room.


Janet Brice Parker's interest in writing began at a young age. She was influenced by her father's "silly rhymes" and her grandmother's published memoirs. Janet has been published by KOTA PRESS, LUCIDITY poetry journal, Houston, Texas, TROUVERE COMPANY WRITER'S GAZETTE, THE BLOUNT COUNTIAN newspaper and THE COCONUT TELEGRAPH. She is working on her first book of short stories. Janet has been a professional artist for thirty five years. She lives in Decatur, Alabama with her husband, Eddie.


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