All through my growing up years we had two types of towels: the towels for everyday use and the "Show Towels." The first might be plain, threadbare or inferior quality. The show towels only came out when company came or it was a special time. They were as the family rationale coined from a German-Irish grandmother, "for special" and "for show."
They might replace the normal ordinary towels in kitchen and or bathroom so that only a nice, new, fancy life was shown to guests. Some said it was to honor the guests and others that it was to wordlessly express the success of the family.
Sometimes they were slipped over the ordinary towels to hide the thinner, cheaper daily use towels. What was important was that they were in place to present a certain 'image.' The image was important even if the reality they claimed might not be absolutely accurate.
They came from a time when women were 'house proud' and had their worth determined by how white the wash was, how clean the house, and how many pretty things adorned your existence. It was important because no matter how 'hard scrabble' life might be daily when company came, and you could pull out the show towels from storage, a woman was vindicated. She could provide for her family and even 'for special.'
House proud though was one of the first things extreme poverty and hardship and depressed economics assaulted. When children are hungry the 'for special' must often be sold to buy food. When there is no water the water may not be as clean. When there is too much to do, and not enough money or help, the energy can be too easily depleted to do many things once thought essential.
House proud sometimes led to a fear and a hoarding of the items once brought out 'for special' to serve as the show pieces of homemaking industry and value. Items lost through depressed times were replaced but guarded with the explanation they are too special for normal use. We will keep them for something important or a special occasion.
The 'show towels' were there in storage closets, chests, and on shelves. Unused they waited for a day that never came. One never "special enough" to impress or honor with the good things ever seemed to arrive. House proud had become fearful and maybe a little weary.
The world had changed. The needs had changed. The ways had taken a casual turn where 'for special' seemed merely quaint and a lot of work.
When my mother died the cedar chest she had kept in her bedroom - and all its contents - were mine. Opening it up, the aroma of cedar and perfumes wafting up, I found it filled with 'show towels'. There were aprons, quilt tops, pillowcases decorated long ago when I was still at home, and other treasures saved by generations before her and ones she had collected herself. The evidence of 'for specials' that never came...
We all have a tendency to put things back 'for special.' We all have that need to display the prosperity of the home, the skills of the homemaker, and the honor given a guest.
You may not have a stockpile of Pennsylvania Dutch inspired 'show towels' but do you keep something back 'for special'? Do you, like I have done, try to impress and hid the threadbare, next-to nothing threat count towels of your life with a false front 'show towel'?
Do we all place so much emphasis on some 'future' special thing we ignore the specialness and unique richness of that time that is now? Open that cedar chest in life and determine to no longer live a 'show towel' existence of hoarded joys and laughter but one filled with many special times and special people.