Tag Archives: ghosts

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?

Listen, listen, listen

My sister Carmen, to whom this site is dedicated (see first post), has been on the scene lately. She died in 1995, and so I find the following stories very interesting and very moving. Here are the Carmen sightings of late….

My youngest sister, who was very close to Carmen and who helped so much with all the financial and hospital details of Carmen’s last days, reports that she felt Carmen’s presence so strongly on a day recently when she was doing church board work that all she could do was weep. A friend who sees things others don’t says to my sister that Carmen is there, hovering. My sister thinks, this hurts my heart so, and words come to her, my children’s hearts hurt, too. My younger sister has a strong sense that she must check in on Carmen’s children.

The day that my youngest sister tells me this story, Carmen’s daughter tells another, not because we’re talking about Carmen. In fact, we haven’t shared the first story at all.  Carmen’s daughter has a two-year-old son. He was looking at a family picture taken when Carmen was alive. Carmen is in the photo. There’s Papa, he says, pointing to Carmen’s husband and my niece’s father. There’s Uncle Gene, pointing to an uncle who is especially close to him. And then he points to Carmen. And there’s my angel, he says. My niece smiles when she tells me this. I find out she hasn’t taught him that, that more than likely he’s not seen a photo of Carmen before.

And finally, that being told, my niece has another story, of one of her brothers, very close to Carmen, her oldest. This son of Carmen has small daughters under five. One of the daughters touches his back in a place his mother–my sister, Carmen–used to touch often, an affectionate scratching place of old, a certain exact spot. (We mothers often scratch our sons’ backs because it is the only way they let us touch them after a certain age.) She told me to touch this and say hello, his lisping daughter tells him, and he becomes so upset–no one knows of this but him and his mother––that he jumps in his car and drives away as fast as he can.

There’s a song from the group Honey in the Rock. The dead are not dead, the lyrics go. They are in the fire that is dying, in the grasses that weep, in the whimpering rocks. Listen, listen, listen, the lyrics say. Carmen, we’re listening.