Saturday, May 10, 2014

Apron Strings...the ties that bind

If there is one thing that reminds me of Mom, it would be an apron. She wore them everyday...  at least for part of the day. For many years, you didn't see women wearing them—I guess they went out of style. But just like many things, they are very popular again and many ladies are wearing them as part of their everyday attire.

It doesn't seem like four years have passed since Mom's passing but the calendar on the wall tells me otherwise. Sometimes when I look at pictures of her, I could swear that I can still hear her voice—they way she used to call my name—especially when I was (ahem) in trouble for some reason. I guess I have always had somewhat of a mischievous streak in me, if you can imagine that. Anyway, it went something like this: "DEB-OR-AH. LYNN. BILL-HEI-MER!  YOU. GET. IN. THIS. HOUSE. RIGHT. NOW!"  I knew I was really in trouble when she would use all three of my names and emphasize every syllable like that. She was a strict mom but she never failed to demonstrate unconditional love to her children. Most of the time she was pretty soft spoken. Those were precious days...even when I did get in trouble. I miss her so much, especially as we celebrate Mother's Day. I guess that goes without saying.

So...back to aprons...Mom was the Apron Queen. It was a rare occasion when you didn't see her wearing one. When I think about it, I can name only a few times during a typical week when she didn't have one on—when she was just getting up or going to bed, when she went to do her weekly grocery shopping or when she went to church. Mom's aprons were just a part of who she was and she wasn't completely dressed until she put on her apron for the day.  Back then, almost all of the ladies of the house wore aprons—even the ones on TV. June Cleaver and Donna Reed wore them often—even Lucy, just to name a few. In fact, since I started getting my thoughts together for this post, I have been more aware of the aprons on these old shows. The only difference being that they usually wore their aprons along with a string of pearls and high heels!

Mom wore neither pearls nor high heeled shoes...she didn't need to.
She was already beautiful.

Mom...looking beautiful in one of her many aprons.
Most of her aprons were home sewn, usually from left over fabric from one of the dresses she had  made for either herself or one of us girls. It didn't take much fabric to make an apron. If there was enough of the remnant left, she would design one that went around the neck so as to give more coverage—those were the best kind.  She never threw away any scraps of fabric and if they weren't big enough to make a smaller apron that just tied at the waist, they would be put in a bag for quilt squares. Of course, they were never without pockets...big pockets. Pockets big enough to hold...well, just about anything and everything that she might have the opportunity to come across during her daily cleaning and other chores. She might find some change or a comb that had dropped out of Dad's pocket. Or maybe a curler or a spoolie that had fallen out of one of her girls' hair (you have to be a child of the '50's to know what a spoolie is). I'm sure you might find an extra bobby pin or two in there as well—keeping them handy whenever a wild strand of hair would come loose from her bun that she wore on the back of her head. Or maybe even a stray dirty sock that had gotten kicked behind the chair. There's no telling what wound up in those pockets during the course of a day. At other times those big pockets could be crammed full of clothespins to keep them within reach as she hung the laundry out on the line. Of all the things that found their way into Mom's apron pockets, there was one thing that she was never without—a wadded up Kleenex. In those days, many things were used more than once! :)

We always had a big garden every summer and it wouldn't be unusual to find the skirt of her apron brimming over with fresh produce as she would gather beans or tomatoes in her "basket". Even though I only have a faint memory of the chickens that we used to keep, I'm pretty sure she must have gathered many an egg in the tails of her apron back in the day!

Mom's aprons had many other uses. I can picture her now as she would sometimes use her apron to dry her wet hands when the kitchen towel was out of reach—or to wipe away a smudge or sticky finger prints from a window pane—or the sweat from her brow as she was on her hands and knees weeding her flower beds. I'm sure there must have been countless moments when she used her apron to wipe off a dirty little face or two...or three...or eight. I can only wonder how many tears she dried with the hem of one of her many aprons. Of course, she kept back a couple of her nicest ones for special occasions like when she helped in the kitchen at the church or when she prepared a holiday dinner at home. The everyday ones became so threadbare you could almost see through them.

Mom, between her twin, Edna (left) and sis Clara (right) who is
currently 102 years old. The baby on her lap is Barbara...I think.

When I was really young and learning how to do a few household chores, Mom would give me some simple ironing to do. She would let me iron the handkerchiefs, pillow cases and her aprons. Other times, when I tried my hand at helping her in the kitchen, I remember how special I felt when I actually wore one of her aprons. I learned to sew on her old treadle sewing machine when I was a young girl and one of the first things I made (in addition to clothes for my Barbie) was an apron for her. It certainly wasn't anything fancy, just a simple square of fabric sewn on to a waistband with a couple of pockets. Mom could always use a new apron! Here are a few other photos of Mom wearing various aprons. When I was going through them, it was actually hard to find one when she didn't have an apron on!

Mom in a gingham apron holding her favorite :)
I can tell that she wasn't too happy with the photographer :(

Something tells me she was expecting one of us in this pic...
those tell-tail signs of pregnancy are pretty apparent!

I'm not sure what became of the aprons she had in the later years of her life—my sisters probably have kept a few of them. I'm guessing that the last few years of her life she didn't wear aprons as often since she naturally wasn't able to do as much to actually need one. Since I moved away from Ohio and have been living almost 500 miles from home, I feel I missed out on keeping up with details like that. But the one thing that I do know is that keeping these memories alive in my mind and close to my heart is what I need to do until the day I see her again in heaven.

We are all familiar with that old saying, "It's time to cut the apron strings". What do you think of when you hear this expression?  Most of us would agree that it means for a parent to cut the child loose, so to speak—so they can become responsible and independent adults—to make their own choices. This is what she did. As little children, she lovingly nurtured us as only a mother could and when we became adults and left the nest to start our own families, there was never any interference of any kind. She didn't ever butt in or try to push her ways of doing things off on to us as we raised our kids. She knew that part of her "job" had been accomplished. She was though, always there with answers to our questions, to give advice when we asked for it and to offer solutions to our problems whenever we came to her with them.

There is a song that keeps coming to mind as I ponder these thoughts about apron strings and the symbolism they represent. It is an old, old, OLD hymn that was written in 1777 by John Fawcett titled "Blest Be the Tie That Binds". I remember singing it at the Old German Baptist church that we attended. There were no instruments in the church, only the human voices beautifully blending together—most of them anyway :) When I close my eyes in quiet reflection, I can almost hear them singing....

"Blest be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above."

"Before our Father's throne, we pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one; our comforts and our cares."

"We share each other's woes, our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows the sympathizing tear."

"When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again."

"This glorious hope revives, our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives and longs to see the day."

"From sorrow, toil and pain, and sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign through all eternity."

So yes, I feel like Mom did cut those apron strings at the appropriate time. It's funny though, those same ties that were severed have also become the ties that bind...the ties that bind me to those people and blessed memories of where I came from—who made me who I am today. Those whose examples I try to follow.

I would like to take this opportunity to say Happy Mother's Day, especially to all of you moms today. But whether you have ever had children or not...whether you had a great relationship with your mother or not...I pray that everyone will still be able to celebrate this day and honor someone who has stepped into that role for you in one way or another. She doesn't have to be your mom—or a mom at all! Maybe you are someone who has stepped into that role for someone else. And finally, for those of us whose mothers have already left us, may we celebrate their lives today by always cherishing the precious moments we shared together!

I am so looking forward to the day when I see my sweet mom again... and if she's wearing an apron, I'm sure it will be one of her finest!