Apron by Judy Asher

Many times I relate objects to something in my past.  For instance, not buying a watermelon with seeds because as a child, I thought that if I swallowed a watermelon seed, I would have a baby.  Smells, also can bring back memories. A gardenia bush with beautiful white blooms and instinctive smell, will  instantly spark memory of my sister.

Sewing is one of my favorite hobbies, and last week while sewing another memory came vividly to my mind.

My friend and I came across an old pattern for a nineteen forty -one apron and decided  a make a few.  We were so pleased with our project, that we have made eight adult aprons, four children’s aprons, and two doll aprons.

It didn’t come to me for several days why I loved making this pattern.  Then one morning as I awoke, the memory was there. ” Grandma Jenny” wore an apron made off this pattern when I was a child.

“Grandma Jenny” was not my real grandma but my friend Janet’s grandma.

Janet was a year or so younger than me and lived five houses down from me on Vera place in Canton ,Ohio.  Our mothers were best friend so we had been together since babyhood. We were like sisters, even looking very much alike.  We both had dark brown hair and dark brown eyes, and loved when adults ask us if we were sisters. We would just smile and not answer, so they assumed we were.

 “Grandma Jenny” and her husband “Grandpa Mack ” lived with Janet’s parents and her two siblings. I thought this was a great arrangement, to have a grandma there all the time to give unending love and care. That was exactly what Grandma Jenny excelled in doing. 

  I thought Grandma Jenny  was very old. At least to my young age.  She was at least sixty and had very white hair.   There was a photo of her on the wall that was of her and Grandpa Mack on their wedding day.  She was so beautiful and had long wavy hair. Janet and I would ask countless questions about her wedding day.  We  were fascinated that she rode in a horse and buggy from the church to her new farmhouse on her  wedding day.  There was no party or honeymoon after the wedding.  The farm had to be cared for and that is how her and Grandpa Mac had begun life together.

The farm and their life together had been wonderful until the great depression.  That is when the farm had to be sold and they moved in with their daughter.

The household chores of Grandma Jenny and her daughter were shared.  At my young age I never knew if there was family stress there, so often the case today.  Grandma did all the washing ,ironing mending , and cooking. Ledra, her daughter, the cleaning and shopping.  I never heard sharp or angry words between them, everything always seemed to run smoothly.

Grandma Jenny would hang a clean ironed apron every night before she went to bed on a hook by the kitchen door.  Her aprons were made of feed sack fabric, a white background with different colorful flowers.  The apron would slip over the head and arms, and tie in the back.  The front had two large pockets, one of which always held a clean hankie. 

Janet and I would help Grandma Jenny with the laundry. There was a laundry chute that went from the second floor bathroom to the basement. On Mondays all the beds would be changed and the sheets dropped down the chute.  Grandma Jenny ,  open it, and all the sheets would fall on us.  We thought this was great fun.  The basement was dark with only two lights hanging from a single cord. A rather scary place, unless with a loving grandma.

Grandma Jenny taught me many things: how to shake and hang clothes on a clothes line, how to starch clothes, to dampen clothes and place in heavy cloth bag for ironing and how to iron.  Ironing at that time was very different then today.  The iron was flat, and a cloth like striped cord was connected at the ceiling outlet.  I was nine when she first let me iron handkerchiefs and dish towels.  Janet set on the steps and pouted.

Today, washing and ironing is one of my favorite households tasks.  I really believe it is because Grandma Jenny showed me how much she enjoyed doing it, not a burden.

She also taught us to bake.  Real biscuits, and real cookies.  I remember using a flour sifter, and a huge wooden rolling pin.  We did not have aprons so she would tie a large kitchen towel around our waist.  We would kneel on a kitchen chair to reach the table.  Her patience was unreal.  Even when we would spill flour or drop an egg on the floor, she would just say” oops a little mistake , it can  be fixed.

One hot summer afternoon Grandma Jenny took off her apron and donned her black round hat, fastened with a foot long hatpin. She announced that we were going to a church tent meeting at the fairgrounds.  Janet and I were thrilled thinking a “tent meeting ” must be like a circus. We were very wrong.  The tent was huge and filled with chairs.  In the front was an elevated stage with a stand (later to know as a pulpit).  A tall rather skinny man was introduced as the reverend. He was holding a Bible, waving  it in the air.  He began to speak or should I say shout. “Sinners, hell, burning forever, eternal damnation.” Really frightening things to a child. ” Get right with God, or you will burn forever.”  Janet was already asleep, I leaned against Grandma Jenny and she held me tight. On the way home she told me that I shouldn’t be frightened by that man.  She said God loved everyone, especially children.

That evening after dinner, I rode my scooter to the end of the road just as the sun was setting. I was sure God was by the sun and listening so in my childish innocence I told Him I would always be good to keep from burning forever.

Not  long after that, I came down stairs one morning and found my mother sitting on the front  porch swing . She motioned me to sit beside her.  I could tell she had been crying, and ask why.  Grandma Jenny had died during the night.  I also began to cry. I loved her so much, what would Janet and I do without her?  I knew one thing for sure, Grandma Jenny was in heaven. It was very hard on Janet and I to be without her for a while.  Children tend to heal quickly and then Grandpa Mac really needed us to care for him since Grandma Jenny was gone. She would want us to do just that!

The Apron  Memoir

Judy Asher is a retired nurse, mother, grandmother , and great grandmother.  She and her husband currently live in Montana with their son and his family. She enjoys sewing , quilting writing, and spending time with her family.