Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Apron

I will never forget a treasured Christmas present I received from my paternal grandmother over forty-eight years ago. I was only three or four, but I still can envision in my mind’s eye how Grandma watched with anticipation as I opened a package and pulled out a red gingham checked apron that she had hand-stitched just for me. The single pocket on the front was solid red cotton, cut out and sewn in the shape of a baby carriage with two large buttons for wheels. A white chain stitch was embroidered and topped off with a flat pearl button for the carriage handle. But what made the apron the perfect gift for a girly girl was an itty-bitty plastic doll tucked inside the carriage pocket.

Grandma believed in learning life skills early. “Little hands should be helping hands,” she often said with enthusiasm.

My preschool hands were taught how to set and clear the dining room table. Christmas baking was also part of my early childhood training. Grandma would set me on a chair that faced the kitchen counter of the old farm house, tie my gingham apron around my tiny waist and my cooking lessons would begin. We would bake all kinds of Christmas cookies. Grandpa loved smelling the tantalizing aroma of cinnamon and gingerbread that wafted through the whole house. My job was to put the Red Hots and raisins on the gingerbread man’s tummy and face. When all the baking was done, Grandma would fold my apron and put it in a cabinet drawer. Then, I crawled up in her lap and listened as she read, “The Gingerbread Man.”

In 1997, Grandma was diagnosed with terminal inflammatory breast cancer. I wondered how I would go on without her daily presence in my life. She was the stabilizing force in our family for as long as I could remember. As the time for her departure grew near, we spoke often of favorite family memories. I mentioned the gingham apron. She smiled weakly and said, “Life’s simple treasures are the best.”

After her death, I thought I would drown in the grief that swelled over my soul in waves. Shades and shadows of suffocating bereavement attempted to swallow me. I would find comfort in the Scriptures and consolation in the old hymns about Heaven, but for some strange reason the familiar gingham apron soothed my anguish, too.

I have a special drawer in my kitchen for the precious heirloom. On days I feel I’m losing eternal perspective I take it from its hiding place. Its symbolism helps keep me grounded. Every inch of it resonates my godly grandmother’s life. The three buttons are still securely fastened even after nearly fifty years – so like Grandma. She was always predictable and dependable. The decorative chain stitch represents Grandma’s keen ability to keep all of our family linked together no matter what life tossed our way. And the little baby tucked in the pocket symbolizes a little girl, forty-eight years ago, who through my grandmother, God kept safe and sheltered from life’s howling winds. Even though the apron no longer fits around my ballooning waist, it fits around my heart just fine.

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