Hankies and Middle Schoolers

I have come to realize that I am a creature of habit, as well as a reflection of my past. Those two news items in my bio don’t really cause any eyebrows to rise in amazement, unless there is a handkerchief involved while there are eighth-graders in the vicinity. You see, I’ve always carried a handkerchief in the back right pocket of my pants. The back left pocket is for my wallet. Depending on what I’m doing, my left hand reaches for the wallet and my right hand reaches for the handkerchief. Once I switched the two items, but kept pulling out my billfold to wipe my nose.

I learned the handkerchief thing from my dad. It’s what he taught me back in the days when there wasn’t a slew of tissue boxes around. Handkerchiefs were used to wipe the sweat off your brow, unscrew the top to check the car’s motor oil level, stop a blood flow, handle evidence at the scene of a crime (Okay, I guess my dad never used one for that, but he would have!), and blow your nose. Handkerchiefs were practical, as necessary as your underwear and socks. In fact, I have double the number of handkerchiefs than I have of boxers!

But now we live in an age where students and tissue-addicted adults don’t use handkerchiefs, don’t carry handkerchiefs, and don’t think handkerchiefs have any purpose except to gross thirteen-year-olds out. For my students they are listed in that column of gross that includes picking your nose, picking your teeth, and using the gym locker room showers.

Here’s the thing! When I sense a sneeze is coming, I don’t have to run halfway across the classroom and grab a tissue. I reach in my back pocket, pull out my hanky, and capture the moment. That sequence makes no sense to my students who watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre while munching on popcorn saturated with butter.

So we have discussions about the different ways we were raised, family traditions, and how we are reflections of our parents. They don’t understand handkerchiefs and I don’t understand pants that have more rips than fabric. They don’t understand why I tuck my shirt in and I don’t understand piercings in noses and eyebrows. They don’t understand why I go to bed shortly after the 9:00 chimes occur and I don’t understand why they think midnight is a good time to cook up some nachos and watch Tik-Tok. They don’t quite understand the grey in my hair and I don’t understand their purple, orange, pink, blue, and tutti-frutti colored-hair. I don’t understand why so many of them don’t eat breakfast and they don’t understand why I do. Thus, I get asked for granola bars several times a day, something I keep a box of close at hand.

I’m a creature of habit. Part of the habit is not being able to NOT think about what needs to happen in the coming week. Last week I took two days away from the classroom TO WORK ON TAXES, mind you! However, I found myself thinking about school, what the kids were doing, hoping they weren’t driving my friend, Ron McKinney, crazy, and pondering lesson plans for the next day. Every time I pulled out my handkerchief I could see their disgusted faces in the corners of my mind.

Strangely enough, it brought a smile to my face.

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