Many people who’ve read my Zahn Zone blog and seen my apron photo as the header have commented on the aprons.  Everyone loves the aprons.  I love the aprons.  I would call them a collection if I had more than–let me count…eight–of them, and if I were a collector, which I try not to be.  I only buy aprons that cost 50 cents or a quarter, which is a rare find these days and happens only at the occasional garage sale.  (I still kick myself, though, for years ago passing up boxes of old gingham aprons for a quarter apiece at the secondhand store in our former little town in Iowa.)

some of my apron "collection", covering an ugly basement wall

some of my apron "collection", only partially covering an ugly basement wall

Those old gingham aprons, with their carefully cross-stitched decorations on them, are my favorite.  For some reason the ones I find generally look new and unworn.  Were they ever actually used for their purpose?  Or did the ones that got used get so threadbare they were turned into rags and then thrown out?  Sometimes I think about these things, and about all the women who came before me, putting their spare time into making a pretty apron and then wearing it around their home.

But the main reason I like the aprons is that they remind me of my grandma.  I don’t actually remember Grandma wearing aprons, but they remind me of her because they remind me of home, and homemaking, and they give me that feeling of nostalgia for my childhood past.

Grandma’s house was just one block from ours and her home felt like my home.  Grandma (my mom’s mom, still alive and 90 years old) was a constant presence in my young life.  Since I had a deadbeat, non-existent dad and a mom who was emotionally distressed and obligated to work to support herself and two little kids, Grandma was my caregiver.

Now, Grandma was no Martha Stewart-type homemaker.  Her cooking was pretty adequate but she didn’t like to do it.  She didn’t sew (mom was the fabulous seamstress) or knit or cross-stitch.  Her home was nice in a cluttered, old-lady sort of way, nothing fancy.  And while Grandma likes pretty things, I wouldn’t say she had a sense of “style” as is the fashion today.

The thing is, though, at Grandma’s house, everyone felt welcomed.  There were always cookies in the cookie jar, whether store-bought or homemade, and coffee on at 3:00 every afternoon.  There was always a big smile and hello when someone came to visit.  And Grandma was always happy when I brought friends over to make forts in her basement or play ball in the vacant lot next store.

Me with my two Grandmas, my mom and my aunt Karen on Mother's Day

Me with my two Grandmas, my mom and my aunt Karen on Mother's Day

What this says to me, is that the most important part of homemaking isn’t the stuff a homemaker does (nor is it the stuff a homemaker has, like aprons, though those things are necessary and fun in their own way).  It’s not about being the perfect seamstress, or cook, or even the perfect hostess.  To me the homemaker is the one who is home.  Not all the time, but a lot of the time.  Home to welcome the kids.  Home to take care of the day-to-day things.  Home to visit with friends and neighbors and serve up the snacks.

My grandma was home.  A lot.  In fact, since she didn’t have a driver’s license she was almost always home when Grandpa wasn’t.  It was with Grandma that I baked cookies.  With Grandma we kids walked to the ice cream shop for treats.  It was Grandma who said my bedtime prayers with me so many nights.  I feel that my Grandma’s greatest gift to the world, and to me, was her constant, dependable presence at home.  The world sure doesn’t recognize that kind of gift much, but for my life it was essential.

And so here a post about my apron “collection” turns into a tribute to Grandma.  It’s long overdue.  She turned 90 last year, and I hope she knows how loved she is.