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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: January 24, 2018

A Day On The Couch

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

We are in the midst of an especially severe flu season nation-wide. I am truly fortunate in that I very seldom get sick. It had been probably 15 years since the last time I threw up when I got violently ill the day after Thanksgiving. It was one of those bone-crushing, swiftly-striking, lie on the floor in a hotel bathroom type illnesses, and everyone in our traveling party had it except, luckily, my granddaughter. I was acutely sick for about 12 hours, and weak for another five days. In total I swiftly lost eight pounds, completely removing any worry I might have had about holiday weight gain in a most miserable fashion.

As luck would have it this past week I have not been feeling well again " this time with a garden-variety cold. There was a day of "up and about" running nose and sneezes, accompanied by a headache, but the next day I was leveled by chills and fatigue so I spent a day lying on the couch.

Arresting my normal activities for an entire day was really annoying to me. I did not feel well enough to get up, but still seethed with frustration about the waste of time. Of course I give loved ones and friends the advice to "slow down and take care of yourself" when they are ill; but I was bored and irritated with my own inactivity. I guess that's how I knew I wasn't seriously sick " if I was, I wouldn't have been stewing about the temporary incapacitation.

One of the things I was musing about while I was lying there was how happy I was to have a generous supply of Kleenex. I kept a box at hand and my wastebasket overflowed with used tissues. Not only was I sneezing dozens of time, I was also coughing up chunks of what looked and felt like vulcanized rubber.

When I was a small girl in the late 50's and very early 60's, I don't remember having or seeing Kleenex at all. "Facial tissues" had been used in Japan for a long time, but they were introduced to the U.S. market by my former employer, Kimberly-Clark, in 1924. They were initially marketed for use by women to remove cold cream from their faces. They may still have been seen as a luxury item when I was little. Instead, both men and women used cloth handkerchiefs to wipe their noses.

The men had larger white square versions. I remember ironing my father and grandfather's monogrammed handkerchiefs " folding them and pressing them into neat squares that fit into a shirt or trouser pocket. Women's hankies were much smaller (apparently those old-time women just had dainty, tiny amounts of nasal discharge,) and were often frilly and embellished. I remember some of them having completely non-absorbent cloth "a fashion accessory instead of a utilitarian item since they absorbed nothing at all and rubbed the nose raw besides. A few times I got beautifully boxed women's hankies as Christmas gifts from an elderly great-aunt. They were very feminine, and I often took the box out to admire them " but I certainly did not use them. My step-grandma always had one of these frilly hankies tucked into the belt around the waist of her housedress " her trademark attire I have remembered all these years.

Just think about how unsanitary it was for men to honk away into these saturated squares of cloth all day long at work, repeatedly tucking them back into their pockets after each use. Gross. I imagine the women tucked theirs into their pocketbooks if they were out of the house, but at home, many of them may have resorted to the belt storage method used by Grandma Rosella.

You just never see these old cloth handkerchiefs any more. Dapper men may have a silk pocket square in their suitcoat, but they'd never haul it out and honk into it " it's a style remnant of something that once had a purpose. And the classic big colorful cotton kerchiefs/bandanas are still popular " for mopping the brow of a farmer, as an item of style around the neck, or as a headscarf " but it's not too often anyone is wiping their nose on one. (There are some people who use paper towels for this purpose " since they are usually strong when wet, they "work" for this purpose somewhat better than toilet paper, which is made to dissolve completely when wet. So if you wipe your nose with toilet paper, you end up with a slimy, disintegrating mess. Nearly everyone knows this because you often encounter public restrooms with no other option for nose wiping.)

No, those "use it once and toss it" Kleenex have pretty much taken over and I say thank goodness. I'd have burned through dozens of cloth handkerchiefs during my head cold, and leaving those nasty items lying around for repeated reuse is a very unpleasant thought.

I rebounded on day three and am ambulatory again " happy to be able to go about my daily activities. Luckily there is no one home here during the day so no one had to listen to me whine from the couch, but before too long my husband will be retired and home all day too. So out of consideration for him, I hereby refuse to get sick again this year. No one deserves to have to listen to me complain and honking all day long.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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