Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Great Cover-up of my Childhood

Carolyn J. Rose

Adults, especially those of the grandparent variety, did a lot of covering up when I was a kid.

And I’m not talking about the way they tap-danced around those birds-and-bees topics.
I’m talking about doilies, antimacassars, tablecloths, placemats, and aprons
Except for brief moments after a meal while the old cloth was being exchanged for a fresh one, I never saw a bare table at my grandmother’s house. Except for when cleaning and freshening was going on, I never saw a chair arm in her living room without a circle of lace upon it. 

And except for when she was headed for church or a party, I never saw her without an apron.

She had a lot of aprons. Maybe a dozen. Maybe more. Some she made for herself. Others were gifts. Some tied around the waist. Others were of the pinafore variety, often with gathers and ruffles. Some were everyday aprons with simple patterns. Others were for holidays and special dinners. They had fancy braid or bows or rickrack. They went on when the messy part of cooking was complete and serving dishes were ferried to the table.

When, at four years of age—after washing my hands with a bar of brown soap the size of a paperback novel—I was trusted with the task of creaming butter and sugar with a wooden spoon, I did it standing on a chair and swaddled in an apron wrapped twice around my chest.

For years I thought aprons were more critical to the meal-preparation process than pots, pans, utensils, ingredients, a stove, or a refrigerator.

Then I graduated from college and struck out on my own. I had a car, a dog, a collection of T-shirts and blue jeans, a battered record player, a few dozen albums, and not a single apron. I didn’t have a single recipe, either. But somehow, through a process of trial and error—sometimes major error—I cobbled together meals.

As for those aprons my grandmother passed along, well, I hung onto to them for years. Not for culinary reasons, but for sentimental ones.