The apron: Piece of history and home

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Home Economics was a required course for girls in our school in grades 7 and 8, while the boys were sent down the hall to Industrial Arts. The tomboy in me had absolutely no patience for such things as sitting behind a sewing machine, learning the intricate creation of something I would never, ever wear even if someone double-dog dared me. </p><p><h3>No sewing interest</h3></p><p> I did not care one bit about learning such terms as bias, basting and bobbin, when what I really wanted to know more about was what to put on the end of a bobber to catch blue gill in the farm pond. Pinning fragile paper pattern pieces to material seemed like sheer punishment when there were so many more interesting things to be explored. </p><p>I remember the first project we were required to complete in sewing class was an apron. I bucked at the very thought. All these years later, I wish I would have paid a little bit more attention. </p><p><h3>The apron</h3></p><p> A friend recently sent me a clipping about the history of aprons, stating that most of our children wouldn’t even know what an apron is! </p><p>Aunt Marilyn, my dad’s sister, was very dear to us. My sisters and I recall that every single day, Aunt Marilyn dressed in what was then known as a “house dress” with a kitchen apron over top. A wonderful seamstress, Aunt Marilyn made both the dresses and the aprons that she wore. I remember the hook where she hung the apron at the end of a long day in the kitchen. </p><p>I remembered thinking that our dear aunt must certainly be very old, because she had no interests other than baking and making us happy.</p><p> <h3>Many chores</h3></p><p> It seemed that she lived in her big country kitchen, and she always wanted to share her latest recipe with us. Aunt Marilyn often would dampen a corner of her apron to wipe my dirty face after I had enjoyed some of her frosted cookies, fresh,  warm, and wonderful. She would use that same apron to carry kitchen scraps out to her chickens, and to gather the eggs to bring them back inside for her next baking project. </p><p>Always busy, it was unusual to see our aunt sit down. The first day that I ever saw our aunt lying on the couch, I suddenly realized she was not wearing an apron. I kneeled close, wondering out loud what was wrong, and she changed the subject, asking me what I would like for my upcoming birthday.</p><p> I was about to turn 11, and I remember telling her that with all my heart I wanted a pet monkey. She didn’t laugh at my crazy desire as others did, but simply smiled, patted my head with kindness, and said that maybe I ought to think of a second wish. </p><p>Aunt Marilyn had just turned 36 a few months earlier, and it was to be her last birthday with us. I think of our aunt often and I realize more with every passing day how very young she really was. </p><p><h3>Protecting the dress</h3></p><p> In the clipping, written by an anonymous author, it is noted: “The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children’s tears and making a dirty face shine again. From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven. </p><p>“When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids. And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms. Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron. From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. </p><p><h3>Never ending work</h3></p><p>“In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees. When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds. When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.”</p><p>It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that “old-time apron” that served so many purposes.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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