Thursday, 6 January 2011

Apron strings and other "ties that bind."

     Apron strings often get a bad connotation because people refuse to cut them.  Is it the fault of the Apron Strings?  No--apron strings just help you keep your apron on.  And let me just go on record as saying, as messy as I get in the kitchen, those strings are very important! I have one functional apron right I guess I need to get organised and put my sewing machine to good use.
Grandma Cox

     One of my favourite aprons was made by the Grandma Cox from an old cotton flour bag--a single piece of material with four rounded corners, a hole in the top, so that the apron went over the head and the back ending at waist level, a button on either side with which to fasten it.  She had appliqued flowers on the front, sewn on two pockets and trimmed it with purple edging.  It is very clear there were no strings from which to detach one's self.  ;-)  However, each time I wore it, it connected me with my heritage, reminding me of someone I love dearly.  
      Part of growing up--at least for my sister and me--was spending time with our grandparents over the summer,  during our school holidays.  An annual tradition began in the year 1970; we both spent a week in Bloomfield, Indiana with Grandma Cox--my mother's mom.  

Granny (Shilkett) Hildebrand
After a couple of weeks at home, we spent another week at Gramps and Granny Hildebrand's--my father's mother and step-father.  They lived in Rantoul, Illinois.  As we got older the visits lengthened to two weeks long--and each of us girls going by ourselves.  
     Grandma Cox had limited mobility--so I can remember washing windows, running the vacuum, and doing things she couldn't.  But Grandma was a really good cook--and she taught me how to make pie crust, home-made egg noodles and let me experiment in the open-plan kitchen.  As we sat on her back porch, looking out over the neighbours houses, the train tracks and the old ice house, I'd ask her about her life growing up as an orphan.  She was raised by her Grandmother Russell.  We built a relationship--and history wasn't a subject for school--it was living, fascinating.  
     I spent a lot of time wearing aprons at Grandma's house.  And I brought that home with me...growing to love home-making, cooking, sewing and crocheting.  These "emotional apron strings" didn't "tie-me-down", but rather bound me securely to my sense of identity, heritage and created the confidence I needed to become the person God created me to be.  
     By the time I'd had my "second 18th" or 36th birthday, I realised that my game plan was to marry a man who'd already had children and then become a grandmother.  And that is exactly what happened.  So, although I was dubious about having Grandson M & K for a week (18th-24th December 2010), I was also looking forward to continuing a tradition from my childhood with my step-grandchildren. 
     I thought back to the things that I did with my grandmothers, hoping to determine how to best spend this opportunity with them.  From times in the past when they'd stayed over-night on weekends, I realised that having a focus and planned activities was important.  My first few Christmases here I'd made an effort to have the grandchildren, who were old enough, over for a day of making Christmas cookies.  The purpose was to make memories with them, spend time with them--getting to know them and not only make them feel special, but make Christmas special too.  
     Though I didn't immediately recognise it at the time, this week-long opportunity was a gift to me.  Another  dream was coming true--spending time with some of my grandchildren the same way I'd spent time with my grandmothers.  We put aprons on...until the smaller apron's string  ironically broke!  Grandson M even prepared butternut squash soup for dinner one evening, with me supervising.  He's 13 now...and so he's at a good age for learning life skills that will serve him later as an adult.  
    More than once during our week together, I felt a lump rise in my throat.  I wasn't in Slough, but rather back in Bloomfield, Indiana, cooking with my grandmother.  The love I felt for my grandsons was being braided into the "apron string" that linked me to the love my grandmothers had for me.  I was investing into them those skills and experiences that had been invested into me.  I felt a supernatural sensation of timelessness--the present moment and eternity all in a single moment.  
     Not all apron strings are bad.  Sometimes those strings need to be picked up and passed onto the next generation

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith. 

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