Thursday, 9 August 2012
Grandmother's apron . . .
I was going through my box of patterns in my craft room yesterday morning and I came across my apron patterns. They brought a smile to my face, and I found myself wondering if my girls would ever want aprons. I have always loved aprons. When I got married the first time at the tender age of 19, I was gifted with several aprons . . . some plain and utilitarian and other's quite pretty and obviously for dress-up company occasions. I wish I still had them . . .
I have a few aprons now. Some are the type that cover your whole body from the neck to the knees . . . and they are great, especially if you are a messy cook. I have two absolute favourites though. A red one with white pindots that my mother in law made for me and gave me for Christmas many years ago and a blue and white checked one, a gift from a treasured friend down south . . .
Aprons did fall out of vogue for a number of years, deemed as being un-cool I suppose . . . but there has been a new resurgence of love for them in recent years. Although there were many years I never wore one, I have always loved them . . . and it's nice to see the new interest in them these days.
I especially love the old fashioned ones . . . the ones that remind me of my grandmother and in my mind's eye I can still see her as she puttered about in her kitchen, her dress . . . be it worn or be it for good . . . always carefully covered with her apron. She moved about with purpose and with care . . . her dress rustling as her hands moved about with her business to hand . . . washing dishes, beating batters, rolling out cookies, moving the broom across the floor . . .
Along with the memory of her puttering . . . comes the memory of the smell in her kitchen . . . woodsmoke, the old oilcloth lineolum floor . . . molasses cookies . . . the smell of love. That is the memory which touches me the most . . . the smell of love. My mother has a lock of my grandmother's hair . . . carefully wrapped in tissue paper and hidden in the recesses of her jewel box. I wish I had a lock of my mother's hair . . . I wonder would she give me one . . . I shall have to ask.
The strings were tied, it was freshly washed,
and maybe even pressed.
For Grandma, it was everyday
to choose one when she dressed.
The simple apron that it was,
you would never think about;
the things she used it for,
that made it look worn out.
She may have used it to hold
some wildflowers that she'd found.
Or to hide a crying child's face
when a stranger came around.
Imagine all the little tears
that were wiped with just that cloth.
Or it became a potholder
to serve some chicken broth.
She probably carried kindling
to stoke the kitchen fire.
To hold a load of laundry,
or to wipe the clothesline wire.
When canning all her vegetables,
it was used to wipe her brow.
You never know, she might have used it
to shoo flies from the cow.
She might have carried eggs in
from the chicken coop outside.
Whatever chore she used it for,
she did them all with pride.
When Grandma went to heaven,
God said she now could rest.
I'm sure the apron that she chose,
was her Sunday best.
(the poetry of Tina Trivet)
(Great Great Aunt Janet and her husband Great Great Uncle Darius Smith)
The primary purpose of an apron is to keep one's clothing free of food stains and smell. If it has pocket the apron is also useful for keeping tools to hand, and . . . in the heat of a moment, it can be used as a 'glove' for holding hot pans. My great great Aunt Janet, always wore an apron and a 'dust' kerchief on her head. My Aunt Freda told me once about how aunt Janet had always kept her money pinned inside of her apron . . . so an apron, it seems . . . can also be used as a bank . . .
In the days before electric washing machines, when outer garments were very infrequently washed, the apron was very important in helping to keep one's clothing clean. Easy to launder, they could be washed out by hand every few days. Aprons were not just confined to cooks either . . . early in the 20th century, schoolteachers, children, shopkeepers and secretaries still wore aprons or "pinafores" in different styles over their everyday clothing.
(My Great Great Great Grandmother, Ida McNayr Smith)
In the 20's and 30's aprons took on a different style . . . following the silhouette of the dress beneath . . . very long with no waistline. The Concise Household Encyclopedia of 1933 reflects both the value of the apron and the division of labour within the household:
"Domestic servants require a stock of aprons. Plain white linen is used for nurses, for cooking and general morning wear, and fancy lawn of muslin for parlourmaids, often lace-trimmed or embroidered for afternoon-duty."
By the 1940's aprons became very fashionable with home cooks wearing aprons which had cinched waistlines and they were often trimmed with coloured cotton rick-rack, buttons and decorative pockets of contrasting colour . . .
I may make my girls each an apron this year . . . it all depends on how my time goes. We'll have to wait and see. Perhaps they might come to love them as I do. One never knows for sure about these things . . .
Tis supposed to be a fine day today and so we may take ourselves out for the day. We'll just have to see how the day develops. Right now it is very misty . . . mom always said that a day which begins in mist, becomes a day which is hot and sunny . . . once the mist burns away . . .
Cooking in The English Kitchen today . . . Crispy Baked Chicken for Two with Fennel Slaw.