‘The important role my mother’s apron played in my childhood’

Sep 22, 2019
Robyn remembers the love of being wrapped up in her mother's apron. Source: Robyn McCoy

I read an article recently informing me that aprons were now “back in vogue, convenient, retro-chic” because they have been proven to depict “warmth, practicality, sentiment and hospitality”. Wow, all of that hey? The same article, I agree, correctly informs this is due to “the popularity of cooking shows on the Food Networks, and a new appreciation for quality meals made from scratch”.

Could they just not simply admit that our mums and grandmothers had it right in the first place and give a well done, high five seal of approval to generations past? I remember my mum’s apron doing so much more than just protecting her dress while cooking; this item was a ‘Jill of all trades’. She sewed them herself too!

One particular summer’s day in tropical Brisbane, Queensland, Australia my sister and I were picking mulberries (up the tree, a big no-no in a electrical storm) in the backyard while Mum hung washing on the line. I swear, out of nowhere, a huge thunderstorm with severe hail descended on our idyll. Huge hail stones hit and hurt; we were stunned motionless.

Before we knew it Mum, like a mother hen, gathered us under her ‘heavy, wash day canvas/calico apron’ and scurried us into the house, without any thought for her own safety. Yes, we were wet but her quick thinking saved more hail bruises and worse. Apron to the rescue, who’d have thought.

Mum had many aprons it seemed. Smart, pretty, practical, sensible, functional; ones for party/guest times (just-for-looking-at) and some just plain workhorses and everything in between; and I loved each and every one.

My oh my, those daily functional plain Jane garments worked damned hard, and not just on kitchen duty. She dusted while walking through the house and wiped cutlery and glasses to shine while setting the table. She cleaned up childhood spills, stemmed bloody noses and cut lips, soothed stubbed toes and scraped knees. If required, a band aid would be applied (or Mum’s version would appear out of the apron pocket) but that was very rare, we were too busy playing.

Mum’s aprons saw many tears and runny noses (six kids). Sometimes jelly beans could be found in secret compartments and pockets, but my enduring memory is that of cuddles, kisses and being wrapped in my mum’s arms and apron. There was never a more comforting, warm feeling whether tending to a physical hurt or an emotional slight because all the kids thought you too little to play ‘on the team’.

Germs? What germs? I don’t think I ever caught anything from my mum’s apron but love.

I’m happy this long-forgotten garment is making a comeback, but rather sad it seems destined only to protect designer clothes, advertise programs and display logos. I, for one, will never forget the part my mum’s apron played in my childhood. Just like its wearer she never stopped working for and caring about her family; and there wasn’t a camera in sight. Imagine that.

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Did you or your mother wear an apron around the home? Is there an item like this writer's mother's aprons that holds special memories for you?

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