Washing the Gifts of Love
Woman and child with a basket of washing, c. 1919.
Photo by Bert Boardman (1889-1982) via State Library of Victoria.

I took advantage of the recent gloriously summery weather to catch up on some washing, starting with the towels because they take the longest to dry.

As I hung them on the line, carefully stretching and straightening them out so they dry square (and are easier to fold neatly), I realised I hadn’t bought any of them.

Now, I’ve already talked about realia; the stuff used by historic figures or at historic events and therefore worthy of collection. But as it turns out, we leave us day-to-day reminders of themselves as well – Gifts of Love.

The Place of Gifts of Love

My books Build Your Signature Wardrobe and Holistic Personal Finance have their roots in the Great Depression. And while I was researching, I discovered how important gifts were as a way of keeping families afloat.

During this time, through the Second World War and post-war rationing, many families were too proud to accept charity. Didn’t matter whether it was a Church handout or State benefits, they weren’t having a bar of it.

The only way they survived, was through family gifts; food, clothes, homewares. And to this day, many who survived those times continue to give useful and practical gifts we can use for many years to come.

My Mother’s Towels

The towels my mother bought me were once green. She bought them more than 20 years ago so I can’t remember a time they weren’t faded, threadbare and almost white. We used them ourselves, and when they got tired we used them on the dogs, and now they’ve become odd job towels for cleaning up paint and odd job detritus.

Like her, they’ve been good workhorses, and as they’re 100% cotton, we can end their lives by hanging them in the garden for the birds to pull apart for nesting.

When she bought them, the towels would’ve been expensive. They were a high-quality brand, and she’d have known they’d last a long time. Her intention was probably to get us something durable that would last a long time and save us money replacing lower quality towels more frequently.

Whether she thought they’d outlast her is another matter, but they have. Though it’s only now that I see them as a physical manifestation of her love reaching out from the grave.

My Aunt’s Towels

My Aunt bought us a fun set of beach towels, I can’t remember when, but we took her on a beach holiday that year. Ten years ago? Fifteen? DB had a whale, and I had a seahorse, and I can’t remember what she had. A mermaid maybe. I do remember I tore mine on a nail – I never bothered to mend it, but it still works fine.

We’ve used them as beach and hot tub towels, but not house towels. We’ve used them for the dogs, and they too are now odd job towels.

These towels were cheap and cheerful, probably bought on sale. They were intended as a souvenir and none of us expected them to last more than a year or two. It’s nice that they have though.

And now that she’s gone, every time I look at them, I smile as I remember her too.

Your Gifts of Love

Some gifts are meant for a moment in time, while others are meant to last longer.

We often buy cheaper, less significant gifts for children, knowing they may not survive the day. Gradually, over time, the expense and significance of your gifts increases at the same rate as their sophistication.

Hopefully, when you buy gifts, you try to get things your loved ones will appreciate. Not necessarily practical or long-lasting items, but items that will live on in their memories.


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