September 04, 2018

Article at respectnews.ca

My grandmother's apron

Our family has its share of heirlooms and memorabilia, some from Sherry’s family and some from mine. My side has a lot of artifacts from my Dad’s grandfather, gathered throughout his fascinating and adventurous life.

But on a recent visit with my Mom, she showed me something she has saved for many years. I had never seen it before.

It was her Mom’s apron.

During the 1930s my grandmother separated from her husband and relocated from Grenfell, Saskatchewan into Regina with her eight children. The family lived in social housing and relied on relief payments to make ends meet. They were poor, my Mom recognizes now, but at the time the kids didn’t realize it because they had nothing to compare it to. They were loved and they were happy.

Mom occasionally shares stories about how much work was involved in running a household back then—never complaining, mind you, just sharing her life experience. It has helped me appreciate the comforts I have enjoyed as part of the “baby boomer” generation.

But I never truly grasped the selflessness, love, and sacrifice that my Grandma Tappin offered her children until I saw that apron.

It is made of cotton. It has been patched and darned, and the patches have been patched and the mends have been mended. The skilfullness of the sewing is remarkable in itself. In her time, girls spent many hours learning how to make and mend clothing. The quality of the needlework is astounding to someone like me—it might as well be magic. But back then, it was a needed household skill and it was a woman’s lot to spend many hours sewing.

And I realize too, that every repair represents a time the apron was damaged. It got torn or worn or burned in the course of hours and hours spent caring for her brood: cooking, cleaning, making and repairing the things they needed. When the kids were asleep, the work continued. And when their stockings and dresses and coats were all finally mended, Grandma had her own things to take care of—including her apron.

Is there anyone today who would invest so much work to preserve a simple, inexpensive apron? Of course not. But money was scarce back then, while Grandma’s capacity for labour seems to have been endless.

Grandma—Edith Inall Tappin, to call her by her name—raised her kids well. I have no idea how many years she wore that apron in the process. Holding it my own hands, I feel sad for all the hours of toil she sacrificed, yet touched by the love that motivated her.