Aprons and a Harvest

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Another season of harvest is rolling through. The farmers’ markets are bursting with food and folks eager to buy. It’s only been a few years since I last canned and pickled what grew in my gardens.

The other day I decided to make a black bean and corn salad, and unhooked the apron from the back of the kitchen door. I smiled at the thought of a young millennial friend who loves to cook, and wondered if she too wore an apron. As I tied the apron in place, I recalled the “Two Margarets”—I was named after my Italian grandmother—setting to work in a kitchen with bushels of harvested goods lined up in the side porch.

I remember…

…a draping bouquet of aprons. They hung together as colorful as a flower garden border: a meadow print, a faded red windowpane plaid, another a mint and white gingham, and a blue calico. Some had ruffles, and could be half or full, crossing the back or wrapped at the waist.

They were clustered together on a cup hook in the small kitchen pantry.  The ties would drag on the floor when they weren’t draped haphazardly over the pencil sharpener attached to the narrow door. A wonderfully curious association, the smell of pencil shavings mixed with aromas of cooking.

I loved the full apron, a thick cotton meadow print—a true 1940’s piece. Grandmother preferred the thinner white with the calico of blue forget-me-nots.  She and I would always wear one from the assortment of aprons when putting food by in August, or making jams for Christmas.

Grandma never failed to remove any stains that found its way onto the apron bodice. Boiling water was poured through the cloth from the backside for fruit stains, and rubbing peanut butter into a grease splatter always worked.  Good old ammonia in the washtub brought freshness to even the most well worn of cover-up.

The last of her aprons is folded away in a small shirt box at the back of the linen closet.  It doesn’t release the fragrance of pencil shavings, it isn’t one she wore very often; it’s a thin frilly pink and white laced half apron worn when serving company that came to our house.  It was the only one not ragged-out for dusting.

Chopping the celery and onions for the salad I was comforted by the memory of a grandmother who taught many things in the simplest of acts. She was a parable of living from the abundance, from grace to grace, no matter how meager or full the harvest.

Image by Greg Montani at pixabay.com.