raising 6 children on a farm...
my image of my grandmother as a part of a larger group of women... emily spring 1999
grandma gowrie. i was the last grandchild to be born and i don't have a lot of memories of my own of mabel. seeing mom though makes me feel i know her. dining room, sunday dinner, farmhands. she lived her life on the farm. she was thin and strong. from her pictures she seems to me direct but quiet, quiet eyes.
mom recently told me that one the aprons that my sister sarah uses belonged to her mother. grandma gowrie's apron is that of a farmwife - functional. it is a blue calico print with trim and a longer length. it has a very practical design that has criss cross straps that go over the shoulders and therefore nothing needs to be tied.
i have collected aprons, old aprons, for a long time but the aprons i cherish most are the those MADE and worn by my grandmas - grandma gowrie and grandma greenhouse. in the past i appreciated the aprons that i collected for their fabric, their details, their prints. i became picky because there are so many out there if you know where to look. eventually i even stopped collecting them. but when i saw the aprons made and worn by my grandmothers, and knew that THEY made them - with rick rack detail and printed fabric - i realized that the other aprons that i'd seen and collected where also probably made BY WOMEN, and i suddenly appreciated all the aprons i'd seen in a new light. i was also able to see my grandmas' connection to the time in life that i so cherish - the time i want so much to capture, to go back and live - the time when my father was a young man - in the 1930's and 40's - even if it was just walking through a store or seeing the streets not filled with junk.
the aprons are not only a symbol of each woman/grandma and their different personalities and lifestyles, or as vehicles for me to experience the time and place i want so much to travel to, but they are a symbol of women's lives - of the power women had, within the home, of the expertise they had. the responsibilities. the caring not only of house and housework but of family - of providing health and well being - of nurturing.
young girls wear aprons, starting at the age of 3, to keep them clean, to begin and end an activity. as they become grown they are worn still to protect their good clothes but the act of wearing them also serves as a reminder that they are taking on the responsibility of being a working and caring model. putting on an apron can give you a sense of preparing to do a job, a job that you care enough about to do well.
my mind is filled with images of women coming out of the kitchen, out of the house, wearing or removing the apron and tossing it aside. getting new aprons every now and then making new ones. they were common items then - not too special, not special like a new hat would have been or a new dress. folded up or hung on a hook when not in use. tossed in drawers or boxes for later. maybe keep out just one or two for baking or a party. no longer for everyday use. treasures to find later on or discard. old world remnants.