Charles Boothe mugshot

Charles Boothe

Almost every memory I have of my grandmother includes one of those seemingly innocuous items that we take for granted, but yet in hindsight was a simple utilitarian garment that provided countless uses.

About the only time she was not wearing one, it seemed, was to church and when she went to bed.

In the mornings when I stayed with her she was up bright and early and by the time she drug my lazy little behind out of bed she was wearing it.

It was automatic to put it on as soon as she slipped into her dress in the morning because she went to work early, usually firing up her wood cookstove first.

As the U.S. Army recruitment ad says, she got more done before 9 a.m. than most people nowadays do all day.

With Thanksgiving next week, most of us recall holidays past and I always think of my grandmother because the meals at her house were so much fun, relaxed and, of course, the food was amazing.

I can remember her scurrying around her kitchen like a tornado, and she used the garment constantly.

Of course, I am talking about grandma’s apron.

The one I remember was mostly white, but had some blue flowers at the top.

It had a very large pocket at her waste and smaller pockets on the sides. It also had pockets on the chest part of it. Maybe other pockets I don’t recall.

She used it to gather kindling for her stove, carry eggs, and tote vegetables from the garden. She wore it as she walked to her “dairy,” a small building built into the bank near the creek so it would be mostly underground to stay cool year-round, and bring canned items or potatoes from the bin.

I can’t even imagine how many different items she would carry in that apron.

She also used it as a towel, drying her hands with the skirt part or wiping dishes and utensils.

The upper pockets were handy places for her handkerchiefs and the side pockets for mittens she used to handle hot cast iron skillets and baking pans or utensils.

One of the most vivid memories I have of her using the apron was when she made biscuits.

She had a Hoosier cabinet, which in the center of the upper part had a flour mill.

The door to the mill at top opened downward and she would pour in the flour, shut that door, then open the bottom door to reach the bottom part of the mill that had a handle to turn and sift the flower, catching it in a bowl.

The shelf had another pull-out smaller shelf she used as a place to work the dough with her rolling pin after she had mixed it by hand, “cutting” in the lard, which was, and still is, an essential ingredient for great biscuits.

During this entire process, which she could do at lightning speed, she constantly used her apron to wipe her hands and clean the shelf, often stirring up a cloud of flour dust.

Her apron was like a carpenter’s belt, such a handy place to carry around anything she knew she was going to need.

But the best memories I have of her apron have nothing to do with cooking or carrying kindling and vegetables. They have nothing to do with the usual utilitarian, practical purposes.

They have everything to do with who she was to her core, so full of love, always pleasant, always ready to show affection.

That’s because she also used that apron to wrap around me if I were hurt or sad.

I remember the feel of her apron, the smell, and it always comforted me.

I remember her arms around me, the most secure and loving place a child could be.

No one knows what happened to any of her aprons as the appreciation of such things usually comes later in life, too late to salvage the item itself.

But the impact and visions of her and her apron are permanent and have not diminished at all.

Those memories continue to evoke that same comfort and security I felt as a child.

They became part of me, of who I am, a part I am blessed to have.

— Charles Boothe is a reporter for the Daily Telegraph and can be reached at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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