Grandma wore aprons. Grandma wore hair nets with beads as well (which I thought were perfectly splendid in a mysterious, other-generational sort of way) but those don’t figure so prominently in my memory as do her aprons.
She didn’t wear hostess aprons which were more decorative than functional, and she didn’t wear little half-skirt type aprons with dainty pockets and coordinating ties. No, Grandma wore proper, full-coverage aprons with high bibs that kept splashes and garden soil off her dress, and broad straps that marched over her shoulders, crossed in the middle of her back, and buttoned to the waistband. Grandma wore serious aprons with back hems that could wipe gravel from skinned knees, sturdy aprons with pockets that could hold enough pegs for a whole line of laundry or enough peas for supper, generous aprons with skirts that could fold up to become a gentle nest for two bouquets of sweet peas and enough raspberries for desert.
Grandma played with her aprons - smoothed them over her lap, toyed with the pocket tops, fiddled with the edges. By the time I got to know her, she was grey-haired and becoming frail. By the time I got to know her, she was so set in her ways that wearing an apron over her dress and under her cardigan was what one expected to see...except when she went to church.
I loved Grandma’s aprons - loved the way they looked, loved their colours, loved their patterns. I loved the simple intricacies of their straps and buttons. I loved that there was always enough scoop to the neck to show off the brooch pinned to her dress underneath. I loved what they represented.
I still do.
Somehow, that part of it all becomes more important as the year-distance between us here on Earth grows.
I have - and use - several aprons, but none so substantial as the ones Grandma used to wear. I have a pink cotton apron (dusty rose, really, since it has been around since the 1980’s when dusty rose was fashionable) with a bib...but the bib is small, bearing two crocheted lambs (at least, we think they are lambs, sometimes they look like pigs) in the middle and a ruffle around the edge. It is stained. It is wearing thin in spots. It has no pockets. It is the apron my children tell me they equated with baking and treats...but it is not a Grandma kind of apron.
I have a Christmas apron that has been plasticised, laminated or treated to some sort of process that makes it almost resemble an oilcloth....almost. It is the apron that mostly kept small children mostly clean and mostly dry when they, um, helped me in the kitchen. It is handy and it is dandy...but it is not a Grandma kind of apron.
Treasured are two aprons given to me (indeed, made for me) by my cousin, who remembers Grandma’s aprons with as much wistful affection as I do...and that’s saying something! I know that thoughts of Grandma are attached to those made-for-me aprons, that they were cut and sewn while my cousin was thinking of the oh-so-shy woman who marked us both so strongly - we have marvelled to one another about how a woman of such quiet and gentle demeanour could have had such a powerful influence.
My cousin and I have agreed that somehow...no matter that their straps are narrow and buttonless, no matter that friendly teddies play on the bib of one, and little rose clusters are scattered across the blue ground of the other...somehow they are each, at least to my cousin and I, a Grandma kind of apron.