ghost apron

Today I thought of a story I’d saved from the paper about an exhibit called: Apron Strings. Do you even know what an apron is? Women used to wear them to protect their dresses as they did domestic chores. And female servants always wore them, going as far back as the 1700s. Today we see Betty Draper‘s maid in one on Mad Men. Somewhere between the 1960s and now, the apron died. Did civil rights kill it? Undoing the memory of legions of black maids in starched, white aprons?  Or feminism? What did they symbolize that they died the way they did? The old newspaper story made me remember women in my life who’d worn them, women who’d worked hard and kept family together. But I didn’t learn to sew or cook or embroider or quilt or crochet or tat because the women who did those things weren’t respected by the men I loved. These days, I am learning old ways, cooking, hand-stitching. There’s a yearning in my learning. I don’t know quite what for. Is it the lure of the simplicity of making something small and necessary, of service with quiet, quick, deft hands? Am I appeasing the ghosts of the women who reared me and the women who reared them, gentle ghosts, gallant ghosts, indispensable ghosts who kept the home fires burning and likely wore aprons?

Who are the ghosts in your life? How can they be appeased?  And why is that necessary? I know it is. But why?

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4 responses to “ghost apron

  1. When I was 25 years old, my father-in-law died and I took over Passover for my family in Dallas. I wanted Passover to be my holiday so that I could teach the next generation the traditions the way I wanted them to learn, as my grandparents and great uncles and aunts had taught me. For many years it was my favorite holiday, though with a love/hate relationship. It’s a lot of work–more work in fact than any other holiday. I spent most of my life while raising my two children, in school myself, getting advanced degress, so Passover preparation was always a hassle.

    At some point, one of my professors, a yearly guest, presented me with an apron that said: “Why is this night different from all other nights? Don’t Ask!!!”

    Sometime in my 50s I decided it was enough already. The younger generation was devasted when I suggested we have Seder at a hotel that was offering a private room and catering.

    One of my nieces led a rebellion and she and some of her cousins took it over. At that point, I made a formal presentation and gave her the -Passover Apron, with great delight and lots of pride in OUR accomplishments.

    Life has taken many turns since that proud moment; my daughter and I now make Passover together at her home in Dallas. But my niece, who contributes many fine dishes, still proudly wears that apron. It’s part of our new tradition.

  2. What a great story. Who else has an apron story?

  3. when i cook for special occasions and holidays, i wear an apron my mother sewed and wore in the kitchen when i was a teensy tot. she made me a matching apron, and i have it, too, but it’s a little snug so i just wear hers.

  4. Bonnie Chumney

    I don’t know if we are trying to appease ghosts, or just try to relive some special memories of our loved ones who have passed on. Perhaps, we wish to share with their spirits, the things we once shared with them, or wish we had shared with them.

    My grandmother always wore an apron when cooking or baking, and when we visited with her, she’d pull out one for each of us girls (I have four sisters.) Usually, they were much too large for us, so she would tie them at our shoulder blades, making them look more like dresses, than aprons.

    My dad never wore an apron, but he did his share of the household cooking, sometimes with our help. I cannot peel a potato, today, without hearing him scold, “You’re cutting all the potato away!” He had his own special recipes that we girls try to replicate, but have had little success in doing so. One was for his bread. He refused to put his hands in the dough for bread, like Mom did making biscuits. So he would make it a bit moister than biscuit dough, add a little vinegar to turn the milk to buttermilk (he preferred to save his buttermilk for drinking,) and then he would stir it all up and pour it out like pancakes in a hot skillet. Did they taste like pancakes? Not at all. They had their own unique taste that we girls crave today and keep trying to make. They never quite taste as good as his did, though!

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