I have a cedar chest handed down to me from my maternal grandmother, Pearl Hammel. It must be 80 years old. I’ve used it as a settee for years and cover it with an afghan since it’s scratched and nicked. I don’t look inside it that much, fearing the poignant long-ago memories when life was simpler.
When we moved to the condo in 2013, I got a hint of how heavy it had become when the movers actually grunted from the exertion. Curious about what was in the cedar chest that made it so heavy, I looked through those items. My baby book. A metal old-fashioned square lunch box with a half dozen worn Bibles from my growing up years. High school and college memory books and diplomas. Award plaques. My child hand print made from ceramic. A collection of newspapers from my time as editor of the Hampton Chronicle & Times. My wedding dress and wedding albums. And other junk that I wonder why on earth I kept them.
Then I found a single flour sack towel.
Most women will know what that is—a lint-free towel ideal for drying dishes or polishing furniture. It’s also ideal for embroidering colorful designs based on iron-on transfers that are usually placed on corners. My paternal grandmother, Hazel Butler, spent hours embroidering flour sack towels for birthday and Christmas gifts, and donations to the missionary closet at church. They were meant to be useful gifts, and I was delighted to use them. Most have worn out and been thrown away down through the decades, but I have four left: a kitten, a puppy, a chicken playing a guitar and a chicken sweeping.
It’s a good thing I was sitting on the floor when I found the flour sack towel in 2013 because the pattern floored me. It’s an elephant sitting at a desk, pen in hand writing on a piece of paper. I have no idea when Grandma made it; I’m guessing when I was working at the newspapers in Iowa in the 1980s.
I now hang the towel on the handle of my oven so the design can be seen. I don’t use It for cleaning. Instead it’s there as a reminder that Grandma Butler knew. She knew!