APRONS OF FAITH AND SEX


apron part I

A METAL FOLDING CHAIR creaked as she sat down and shipped off her best black coat.  Underneath and over the light cotton dress was a neat blue pinafore apron with wrinkled white ruffles at the bottom and top.  The young women, faithful members of the Ladies Sunday school class, smiled knowingly to each other in silent sisterhood in the small room on the second floor of the church on a cold but sunny Sunday morning.  Any one of them could have inadvertently worn her apron to church that morning.  The possibility was very high that each of them had left a rumpled and soiled one behind tossed over the back of a chair or on a hook by the stove.  Inside the stove a roast, surrounded with carrots, onions and potatoes, lay simmering in a pot in anticipation of Sunday dinner with gravy, green beans, macaroni and cheese, tall glasses of iced tea; perhaps apple or mincemeat pie for desert.

 

THAT WAS THE WAY it was back then in rural South Texas.  Wives got their families up and ready for church; they served a quick breakfast, hurried the children to get dressed with clothes laid out carefully night before, began preparation for lunch, gathered up Bibles and Sunday school books and, if they were lucky, loving and faithful husband drove them all to church.  If the head of the house did not attend, creative excuses were made for him to the preacher.  Whether he was merely a wayward believer or an outright non-believer, the wife never ceased praying that some day he would go to church with her.  Some prayed this prayer all of their married lives.  The only way some of the men finally got to the church was in a hearse.

greenginghalfapr

I STILL REMEMBER MANY of my mother’s aprons even though she has been gone over forty years. Red and white checks with tiny black smocking…one with a hand red hand towel attached…an organdy one with white flocking that I never saw her wear…one scalloped interestingly at the bottom and made of solid and printed sections…a  softly patterned one made from feed sack.  She kept them  in a drawer by the sink with the dish towels, cook books and recipes clipped from newspapers and those gleaned from friends and written down in her own handwriting.  They were crisply starched and ironed treasures of female fashion and always on standby alert to be donned for battle for a brave and noble household Joan of Arc. They were defenders against clouds of sifted flour, splatters of hot grease, peanut butter smears, dripping chocolate icing, softened margarine, occasional dust and tears, those of a child or even her own.

MY MOTHER DID NOT restrict her apron fashion sense to the kitchen alone, but she seemed to wear her aprons like friendly armor as she performed the many domestic chores indoors and outdoors. The center of the house and her life was the kitchen. And the kitchen was where she singed the chickens and cut open their gizzards.

Lucy apronOUR FAMILY LIVED ON on a ranch.  We kept chickens along with an assortment of cats, dogs, goats, pigeons and a peacock names Mathis. Cattle were raised for more serious financial purposes. When Mother a chicken to cook she would go out to the chicken yard and grab the eligible fryer, occasional hen or aging rooster by his or her scaly yellow legs, and like some efficient French executioner, quickly wring off the neck, twisting the body in the air as delicately as a lady might twirl a pale white parasol in the noonday sun. Only the few inches of pitiful neck and head would remain in her hand while the feathery, headless body flopped frantically on the ground for a minute or two. The feathers around the remaining stub of neck always seemed to be ruffled, as if the hapless fowl was surprised and angry at the whole foul business!

chicken

THE LIFELESS CREATURE WOULD be dipped in scalding hot water that would make the feathers easier to remove. As a child I thought it was the best of fun (this was before we had television in our home) to stand over a barrel outside and pluck the body until it was mostly naked. The wet smelly feathers would stick to my small fingers and hands. Mother would inspect my work and remove any feathers I had missed; then she would take it inside to the kitchen, wash it and then singe the small hairs away by turning on a high blue flame on the gas stove and quickly passing the body over it several time.  I would watch in morbid fascination  as she made the first cut, sending the intestines slipping into the cool water that filled the sink, tingeing it a diluted crimson.

Diamonds and pearls. I was always confident that a shiny diamond or iridescent pearl would be found when she cut open the gizzard and peeled it open, spilling out bits of grain if the chicken had eaten just before death. Although it was quite unlikely that anyone had dropped a diamond out in the chicken house while gathering eggs or scattering chicken feed where an alert bird would hungrily peck and swallow it down, I never gave up hope that one day an expensive jewel, perhaps even a ruby, would be found in some favored craw.

apron pattern

BY THE TIME I was eleven or twelve we began buying our chicken in town at the grocery store where all one had to do was to choose the desired chicken and the friendly butcher would wrap it up neatly in white butcher paper, tape it and mark the price and content. Mother still insisted on cutting them up even if she did not have to kill them. She made sure that I was taught how to cut up a chicken properly.

TODAY I ONLY BUY boneless chicken breasts hygienically wrapped in clear plastic and nestled softly in Styrofoam beds far from the realities of the gruesome slaughterhouse origins. I have plucked and prepared enough chickens! And I could not even produce an apron for a scavenger hunt.

SEVERAL YEARS AGO I  was reminded of the incredible versatility of the faithful yet sexy apron by a Garth Brooks song, “Somewhere Other Than the Night,” I heard on the radio as I drove to work one morning. A young farmer comes home early from his fields on a rainy day. Damning the rain and the wasted day to himself, he looks up in surprise to find his wife standing in the kitchen “with nothing but her apron on.” She had been waiting for a day like this and they spend the rainy day wrapped up in a blanket on the porch swing.

WHERE IS MY APRON WHEN I NEED IT?

 

love apron

 

 

 

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47 thoughts on “APRONS OF FAITH AND SEX

  1. I love the idea of an apron being like a symbol to all who encounter her; like a wedding ring, almost, but extending beyond the intimacy of two. It says “I dress for hard work and labor, but am embraceable for soft moments.”

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    • An apron does rather shout marriage, doesn’t it? I am so messy in the kitchen – I just usually wear something old and then go change when I am done. I never looked like Mrs. Cleaver! Thanks for taking time to visit and comment while on vacation.

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  2. My mom now is 91 and still wears her Kittel. I remember all the farm woman in my village in Germany wearing their Kittel, a sleeveless summer wraparound , over their clothes. This was the German country version of an apron.

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    • Now that was very practical! If guests came they could take off the kittel and greet guests. Thank you so much for stopping by to comment and share. You are so fortunate to have your mother at 91 and still wearing an apron! And I always learn from comment! From your e-mail address name I would guess you are involved in cooking.

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  3. Something is simple as an apron created deep memories of your Mother. I believe those were better times. I also grew up where achicken house was part of our daily living. The pungent aroma of someone spreading chicken manure fertilizer takes me back in time. It wasn’t the easiest of times but our priorities were right. I love aprons. I have one that pops over your head and crosses in the back. I discovered it in a cottage that I had purchased. The cottage had been closed since l940 when the owner’s son died in World War Two.. Now where’s that French maid’s costume with the frilly apron??

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    • No, it was not easy back then but the memories are sweet with the bitter. I imagine you as a very glamorous figure in the kitchen, Virginia, and looking great in any apron! And I am sure you have that frilly French apron around there somewhere! Thanks for stopping to visit. I think of you every time I use one of Mrs. Butterworth’s recipes.

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      • Oh, my dearest Crone! Your writing is like a dream. The pace, the symbolism, the imagery. This was such a fantastic post. I have read it at least ten times now. You conjured so many memories of my youth, I could actually smell those hot chicken feathers. When we butchered a laying hen, we would take the forming eggs from inside the chicken and make a marvelous soup. The use of the apron as a symbol of the female and how you took us on this journey was just pure absolute delight. Thank you for waking my creative brain.

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  4. Hahaha! I had to laugh at your ending to this delightful post. But your memories of your Mom and the aprons of the day brought back my own memories. The apron was surely the mark of a “good woman” in those days. I still have two aprons tucked away somewhere – just in case.

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    • Yes, an apron was a mark of a “good woman” and meant that she cooked, cleaned and took care of her family. Most women didn’t work back in those days. I gave all of my old ones to my daughter. She had requested a story about aprons and this is it. Thanks for the visit!

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    • Thank you! That is really a compliment coming from someone like you who always writes very well! I usually don’t post anything quite this long or in this style but I thought i would give it a try. The images were meant to be silly and perhaps keep someone reading. Yes, I have seen so much change in my lifetime and am grateful to be able to embrace some of the new changes. I certainly do not want to go back to the old days! Thanks for taking time to comment.

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  5. I enjoyed reading this post. I agree with others that you have a wonderful writing style, and I liked the way you combined a personal story with a broader piece about the symbolism of aprons.

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  6. I still have a couple of my grandmother’s aprons, packed away in tissue as a memory. I can remember her on the porch in Sinton, wearing one of them over her dress and presiding over Sunday dinner. Funny isn’t it, how these things are representative of an entire generation.

    I loved this one, especially the ending. Beautifully done.

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    • Oh, thank you so much Val! Yes, they do seem to represent a generation. Then the 1960s came along and we didn’t want to stay home anymore! How special for you to have some of your grandmother’s aprons. Sinton is practically in my back yard. There are so many lovely old homes with front porches in Sinton. I live in Portland.

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      • My grandfather owned a liquor store in Sinton. Grandma went to church and granddad drank and played cards. They lived in a big white house with a wrap around porch, I still have pictures. Some day will write a post.

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  7. Tin Man, thank you so for the kind words! I am glad it brought back memories for you – I had forgotten about the forming eggs. The process was a bit smelly, wasn’t it? I certainly do not want to go back to those days but I need to try to write about them more at least for my children. My sister and her husband still live out on the ranch where I grew up and my parents and grandparents lived. It was not as glamorous as Paris!

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  8. Well, we have a lot more in common than working cattle, but with a slightly different take. when I was young and we lived away from my grandmother, we would get a rare opportunity to visit. Telephones being almost non existent and with only one in town that you went to the co “office” (usually a room in someones home) and furnished money and a phone number, then waited on kitchen chairs while the operator made all the connections and motioned for you to pick up the only phone in town. So we were never able to call to say we were coming. Economics being what they were, my grandmother sold eggs and fryers to make ends meet in their share cropping efforts. When we would drive up in granny’s yard, the very first thing she would do was grab a coat hanger with a hook bent in one end and head for her hen house. she would deftly swipe the hook at her least productive hen and drag it flopping and squawking out with one leg snared. She would then ring its neck. I really enjoyed watching it flop around the yard spurting blood until it ran out of gas  or i guess it was blood. At the snap off of the head, granny would be on the move out behind the house to build a fire in her open pit (usually used for boiling clothes for washing). Fire going, guess who got to carry water from the well to fill the pot. When  boiled to ripeness, always my chore to pluck. I hate pin feathers to this day! Gutting and opening the gizzard was fun. Never considered precious jewels, but did like to Peel the liner out. I don’t care too much for chicken fat or skins either since then. And what really bothers me is that now I know that granny had nothing else to feed us except one of her laying hens. max

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    • Max, your response brought back more memories. I guess you and I are a dying generation! I can remember when we finally got a phone and we had a “party” line. I had forgotten about the coat hanger but I think my mother would use one sometime. As a boy I guess you really like that bloody stuff! I don’t like chicken fat or skin either and prefer only boneless chicken breasts. Your grandmother must have really loved having you there and willingly sacrificed part of her source of income. Thanks so much for sharing! Yes, we do have much in common. I hope all is well with you.

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  9. What a lovely post…. It struck me to that an apron could act as sort of psychological marker between different parts of a persons life…what I mean is when I put on my painting clothes, I know its time to paint and when I take them off it is over. And of course, as you say it is armour too.Thank you for a glimpse into someone elses world.

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  10. Wonderfully written. How astonishing it is that so many of us, your age and older, have inhabited two totally different worlds in one lifetime.
    Your account sounds almost as “long ago” as Little House on the Prairie did, and yet both your worlds are contemporary for you. And for me. (Although my long ago world was quite different from yours, it was equally different from today’s world).

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    • Thank you! Yes, I am amazed sometimes at thing changes I have seen. We did so many things manually back then. Manual typewriters even! I don’t want to live in the past of constantly but try to embrace the present and pick and choose which new things work for me.

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  11. SOS – Single on Sundays – some in our church called the women who came to church alone.
    Just last weekend my mother and I bought a girly girl apron for daughter as we drove up to be with them for grandson’s birthday. What does a girly girl apron look like? It had ruffles as if making a skirt. She loved it too and wore it while we were there. This was such a delightful post!

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    • Single on Sundays – a great way to put it! I am glad to know that the tradition of aprons is not entirely lost! Maybe younger women are not too afraid of being feminine. I think we burned our aprons along with our bras in the 60s! And aprons are practical too. Thank you for your kind comments!

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  12. What a wonderful post! Of course, I recall the aprons… at least one for special occasions that nobody ever wore! You write so very well, Jo Nell. I learned to cut up a chicken in home economics! Clever teacher brought a chicken for each of us and got it prepared to freeze with free labor! I never forgot how to do it. My daughter couldn’t cut up a chicken if her life depended on it. I loved this story. I especially liked the inclusion of the SOS wives! Chuckle… So very true!

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  13. Thank you, George! A compliment from you is special. Knowing how to cut up a chicken in those days was important. And I could still cut one up today if I had to also. My daughter could not cut up a chicken either! I had never heard them described as SOS wives, but my father seldom went to church except for a funeral. She got back by inviting the preacher over for Sunday dinner.

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  14. Since I remember your mother and my mother in their aprons quite vividly….this was an especially meaningful story. I was trying to think one day how many of my friend’s moms worked out of the home….certainly not many. And yes, we had chickens too and I participated in the slaughter and was not traumatized, terrorized, or scarred for life. We would raise them from baby chicks and slaughter all of them at one time. Daddy would ring the necks….but just one quick snap to break the neck….no blood at all and after the snap the chicken went flying, flopping about the yard, with the neck broken but still intact. Mom had a number three washtub set up over a fire ready to dip the chickens before plucking. My job was gathering the chickens that had stopped flopping and take them to mom and then help with the plucking. The chicken carcass would be dipped in the hot water, plucked, and then singed over the open fire to remove all the feather pieces left after plucking. Daddy would come when he was through with the wringing and gut and clean. Then mother and I would cut them up…all done outside. I can remember carrying big pans of the cut up chicken into the house where we would wash and package for freezing. No ziplock bags back then….just butcher paper and tape, and then I was allowed to write the date with a wax marker on the outside of each package. I can remember helping with this yearly chore before I started first grade. My only complaint was that I did not care for the smell of burning feathers. What wonderful memories….thanks for the trip back in time. I so enjoyed your story.

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  15. Oh My.. Loved this Post CC.. and oh boy did that picture of the first apron bring back memories.. One of our first HomeCraft lessons in sewing at school was to make an apron it looked very much like the one you showed.. In Red gingham mine was with White bric-brac-brade.. Our school uniform was Red gingham too with a red Berry.. French style. 🙂

    You post brought back lots of memories.. including the love of Lucille Ball And I still have many of my old dress making patterns with similar artwork of models on their packet fronts.. LOL… thank you for taking me down memory lane today 🙂

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    • Thank you for the kind comments! I am delighted to have brought back memories for you. Knowing how to sew was important then and aprons were essential. Gingham was popular. We call it rick-rack instead of bric-brac-brade. My mother used to sew almost all of my clothes and I sewed when the kids were younger but got rid of my sewing machine and all the patterns. Your visit is always appreciated!

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      • Yes same here. Would you believe my home made 2 dresses for uniform at school in Gingham were home made from my Mother.. She made it with massive upturned hem so it could be let down as I grew and with Poppers instead of buttons to be let out over my chest.. LOL… I was so pleased to have a wonderful white lace collar to it instead of the regular white plane one of the shop bought school regulation one..
        But Every year I would get pulled up in front of the class because my uniform was not regulation.. And often would have to explain it to the head mistress.. Who by the 3rd year just smiled and sent me back to my class.. ( I was the eldest of 5 and we didnt have much in those days of make do and mend )..
        I also had a pair of hand-me-down school shoes, which were miles to big to start with, I looked like Mini-Mouse LOL, Dad stuffed the toes with cotton wool.. And I was ecstatic when the soles got a hole in thinking I could have a new pair… But no.. Dad mended them!.. They lasted me around 3 yrs..
        You would think I would have developed a shoe fettish after that wouldn’t you.. But no.. I still make my shoes last.. LOL!!.. 🙂
        Thanks for bringing all these memories up for me again.. I look back with a smile.. 🙂 xxx

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  16. Dreamwalker, thank you for sharing your childhood stories! My parents lived through the Depression years so they made do with so many things. I say that I have those Depression genes still. I remember having hems let out of dresses as I grew. Shoes were made to last as long as possible. Repairs were made at a small shoe repair shop in town. I can still see it in my mind and smell the leather. I confess I do have a small shoe fettish and hate to throw a pair of shoes out! Aren’t we fortunate today?

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