Hannah Chappell Rees

The Apron
Hanna Chappell Rees–born 31 July, l862
by Mae R. Winters

One of the fondest memories that I have of my mother is her apron. She always wore one. It as a large straight affair gathered at the waist, with strings that fastened in the back and tied in a bow. The apron was very full. I am sure it has in it several yards of material, gingham or calico for everyday, and fine white lawn or linen, with handmade lace on the bottom, for best. I distinctly remember a very special one, with knitted lace insertion an inch or so wide, with the same matching lace on the bottom. There was always at least one pocket, but usually two large ones.

The white apron was for very special occasions: Relief Society homemaking activities, special quiltings, and parties for the sisters. Sunday afternoon it enhanced Mother’s best black dress.

The everyday one, slow to show dirt, was edged all around with bias tape of contrasting color. I was most impressed with this apron. Its uses were limitless. It made a basket for eggs gathered from the chicken coop, or from a nest found in the tall weeds or grass. Many times Mother would bring in a brood of fluffy yellow chickens in the apron, the bottom edge being brought up to form a temporary nest. The mother hen, squawking and stirring a fuss, would follow behind. Mother transferred the chickens from a stolen nest to the protection of the stable. The same apron was used, by giving it a swish, to frighten chickens from the flower bed or back porch.

To dry a tear from a child’s face, wipe away the dirt, and comfort the children, the apron seemed to be made for this purpose. For a game of hide-and-seek there was never a better lace to hide than under the apron, for, with our heads under, and our feet sticking out, we were completely hidden. Kindling and firewood, vegetables and fruit found their way into the kitchen by way of the apron route. When company came unexpectedly, the apron was hastily used as a duster on the dining table or buffet.

Using it for a pot holder to remove hot pans from the stove, the apron was ideal to lift the stove lid off with the aid of the stove lifter, which saved many burned fingers. A slip of the apron would also scatter the flies, as they hovered about the screen at the kitchen door on a fall afternoon. It also served to wipe a perspiring brow after standing at the hot stove all day canning fruit.

Almost everything could be found in the apron packets: a stool of thread, lost buttons, peppermint candy, cookies, handkerchiefs, bits of paper, a pencil, a piece of string, safety pins, and a coin or two.

For me, there is a never-to-be-forgotten memory of the little ones curled up on Mother’s lap as she rocked them and pulled a corner of the big apron over their feet and legs, not alone for warmth, but as a sort of drawing them closer into her wonderful ways.

She was a pioneer mother, with love to go around and around, and her wonderful apron was just one way of showing it.

Tucked away in my chest of memories is one of her ever-useful aprons. In these days of sometimes forgotten aprons, it suggests to me that perhaps my own children and grandchildren have missed some very valuable lessons of life for the lack of a big apron. A very special accessory!

(From Ray Walker’s Book of Remembrance)

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