I think this is probably my oldest, ‘regular’ tea towel; I may have a couple of tea towels that are older than this but they are ones that I have been given and they are not yet assimilated into my collection for general use. The ‘Kitchen Shelves’ belonged to my mother. I don’t know where she got it from; I don’t think I gave it to her; on her death, I inherited her small tea towel collection.
My mother died 27 years ago. When you are an only child, you realise, that on the death of your parents, you inherit/acquire a whole houseful of goods. I am famous for my ability to sift and sort, declutter and recycle; I don’t just want to fill a landfill site and I don’t want to make hurried decisions about what to keep, and what to let go, but I recognise this process needs to be gone through, at some point, and it may take many years. When someone dies they always have ‘crap’, stuff they should have got rid of years ago, stuff that is of poor quality or is actually worn out. My mother was no different from anyone else. Old furniture, bed linen that has passed it’s ‘sell by’ date, picnic sets, old cushions, a three piece suite that is so uncomfortable that everyone avoids sitting on it and much more. But there were a lot of things of my mother’s that I wanted to keep, at least initially. But over 27 years, things get broken (especially if you are as clumsy as me) or things no longer retain any sentimental value and you are happy to let them go. 27 years later I still have a weird selection of things belonging to my mother: her ashtrays, including portable ones for carrying in her handbag (I don’t smoke); her gin and tonic and sherry glasses (I don’t drink alcohol); her 35mm cine films, about 30 in all (I don’t have a cine projector); I have her ridiculous, 1967 winged rocking chair (which no one dares sits in for fear of falling out of it). All the big stuff has gone, I didn’t need it. Probably the two most important things that I have are her O.B.E and her tea towel collection.
This tea towel has an interesting history. It is a thin, poor quality cotton tea towel with little absorbancy. You can see from the photo that it is beginning to fray around the edges. You can also see that it has a pink ‘tinge’, an inappropriate pink tinge. I put it in the washing machine with a red sweat shirt, washed it at 60 degrees and the colour ran. There are at least two other tea towels that could tell the same story. I obviously did not take my own advice about how to look after your tea towels. About 10 years ago, I decided that this tea towel should be relegated to the rag bag, which is where it resided for a couple of years. Then I came across it again, a few years later, and knew I couldn’t get rid of it, I couldn’t misuse it, so I removed it from the rag bag, washed it thoroughly (but the pink tinge didn’t go away) and returned it to the airing cupboard pile. I have used it ever since. My mother’s tea towels are the most practical reminder that I have of her. I will never get rid of it now (even though I don’t particularly like it!!). But thank goodness for tea towels, holders of many memories. I won’t get rid of the rocking chair either but I will have to find something to do with the cine films.
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