Most people want to get their old photos and slides digitized so that they can go back and look at the people and places in them. But we don’t always realize the power of physical objects to spark nostalgia and connect us to the past. For this ScanCafe customer, an old apron stirred up vivid childhood memories of time spent with a grandparent on her North Carolina farm.
It is amazing how a plain old apron can stir up so many memories and emotions. This apron is not fancy. It’s made from a feed sack cloth and has two patches sewn on each side of the front for pockets. The front narrows as it rises up towards the neck and a cloth strip sewn on to each corner is used to slip it over the head. More hemmed strips attached to the wider part of the apron are used to tie it in the back. It’s a large apron, one that could easily cover a woman of size.
My grandmother was a good sized lady in stature. She definitely was a hard worker and her apron was very important to her. The only time I remember my grandmother without her apron was when she went to town or to church. I cherish that old apron. I proudly display it in my living room with grandmother’s dough bowl, rolling pin and biscuit cutter. I also have a photo of grandmother wearing that same apron. She is coming out the back door of her house and down the steps with a big beautiful smile.
The feed truck would deliver supplies to Grandmother and Granddaddy’s farm. There were so many sacks, so many colors, and so many patterns to choose from. After the contents of the sacks were fed to the animals, grandmother would wash the sacks very carefully and hang them out to dry. She used the clean sacks to make dresses, quilt tops, even pillowcases, and of course, aprons.
Grandmother and I used to walk past the barn, the tool shed, and the hog lot, then on down the hill where an old tree grew twisted over and up, like a horse. She and I would have a good laugh over this. Then we ventured on through the pastures and under the electric wire fence. I knew I could accidentally touch it and electrocute myself to death. Grandmother would just take a stick and lift it up and let me ease through. Above the pasture was a huge orchard where we would gather apples and pears. Grandmother would pull the corners of her apron up and load it completely with the delicious fruit.
Often I would play outside while Grandmother was busy cooking. Sometimes I would smell homemade bread as she was taking it out from the oven. She would pull a big hunk of homemade bread off the end of the loaf, load it down with freshly churned butter and hand it to me. Yummy good! I could have eaten a whole loaf. One time my dad told me that Grandmother made seven pies and placed them in the pie safe. He said he knew he would get in trouble if he cut one of them and ate a slice. So, he just ate a whole pie, washed the pan, and Grandmother never knew.
Grandmother would rise early each morning and head out to the barn to milk the cows. Sometimes she had to tie the cow’s tail with a piece of twine to keep it from swishing her in the face. If she had a real contrary cow that kicked at her, then she would use a contraption on the cow’s two back legs. This would hold the two feet together so the cow couldn’t kick the milker or knock over the milk bucket. There were always some wild cats and kittens in and around the barn. Grandmother would pull a cow’s teat over and squirt milk in their mouths while she milked. It wouldn’t take grandmother very long to fill up the bucket. She tried to teach me how to milk, but I was too slow.
Grandmother would bring the slop bucket from the house down to the milking barn. After we finished the milking we would walk to a pig pen out in the edge of the woods. She would pour all the scraps and leftover foods from the kitchen into the log trough. The hogs used to scare the daylights out of me slurping up that slop in a loud snort. I would sometimes have nightmares at night that I had fallen into the trough and was eaten alive by the hungry hogs.
Granddaddy had built an elevator-type building where crocks of milk and butter were lowered in to the ground to an underground spring. The milk stayed cool and fresh until time for use. The elevator had shelves and on the outside of the little building was a big crank that was used to lower it up and down.
Grandmother would go out to the chicken house and gather the eggs and carry them in her apron. If an old hen was sitting on the nest, she would just reach under her and gather the eggs up. It scared me to do this. I was afraid the old hen would peck at me. The henhouse had a big area that could be raised to let the hens roost at night, and also lowered to clean out the chicken poop. I didn’t like doing that…it stank, but it was a job that had to be done. This was used in the gardens for fertilizer.
In the evenings, Grandmother would sit on the front porch to string beans or shell peas and talk with family or neighbors. Later she’d gather up the scraps in her apron and carry them to the slop bucket. Then she’d take the apron and wipe the sweat from her brow and maybe even a tear from her eye. On warm evenings she would fan herself with her apron and thank God for another day.