So you may be wondering about why I have aprons and I muse upon it myself now and then. I never wear them and have cooking stains on my clothes to prove it, though I am willing to admit not many. After all, thats what aprons are for, to provide protection from domesticity. On rare occasions when I forget what box they are stored in and I stumble across them looking for something else I'll look through them, remembering. Thinking of times when I can recall my Grandma wearing one at Thanksgiving, or a gift given at Mother's Day. Somehow they managed to accummulate in my house, passed on to me from my grandmother and mother. Yet I also used to find them at rummage sales for a quarter. Seeing them lying there rendered almost useless with those great old cotton prints made me think that they might make a nice contribution to a quilt someday, and so I would take great pity on them and bring them home.
Then one day, while visiting my cousins in Portland, Oregon we visited what is possibly one of my favorite bookstores of all time called Powell's. I like this bookstore first of all because it is massive and secondly because both used and new books reside side-by-side on shelves in peaceful coexistence making it a far more interesting place to poke around in. Also, it has a great coffee shop that is decorated with -- you got it -- aprons! Suspended from the ceiling, hanging on the walls, in all their domestic splendor. Frilly lace aprons, rugged work aprons with lots of pockets, full aprons, half aprons, every type of apron you can imagine is on display. I considered the possibility of decorating my kitchen or dining room in a similar manner but realized there was too much other stuff I would need to move. So they have been lying in a box which once held xerographic quality paper, waiting for a chance to be useful.
Luckily, in the spring of 1996, the drama students at the school where I teach performed a piece called Dreams. At our Arts Cluster meeting, drama teacher Magdalena mentioned she needed some kind of costume for 20 girls that would represent repression and asked for suggestions from the rest of us. "Aha!," I thought "Here is a chance for the aprons to perform and be appreciated!" Magdalena liked the idea, so I dug the aprons out, the girls ironed them and wore them in the performance. That was in February of 1996.
Later, in June when school was about to close for the summer Lora Barrett (our arts director who had supervised the costumes) sent a kid down with the pile of aprons to return to me.
"Ms. Barrett said to give these to you," said the apron courier.
"Wait," I responded, "bring them back to Ms. Barrett and tell her the school can have them. They might need them for another performance or someone might want to protect their clothes some day." I was in a warm giving mood that day. Besides, it had been months and I hadn't really missed the aprons at all, I was pretty sure I could give them up permanently.
Five minutes later the kid was back, aprons in tow. "Ms. Barrett said to tell you thanks but there is no room to store them and besides they are old and might get ruined and to give them to you."
"Ok," I said. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth. I know a polite brush-off when I hear one.
So the aprons are at home again. Their brief moment of glory over, they are back in the carton with the other 20-30 that didn't make it to the performance. I like to imagine they are communicating with their boxmates gesturing with their apron strings to describe their brief experience in contemporary society. Maybe they are reporting the changes they see in the world now and performing silent chants to bring back the days where aprons were worn with pride and dignity. Or maybe they are just wishing I would learn how to sew.