LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — I can’t remember ever seeing my mother without an apron on but I’m reasonably sure she didn’t wear one when she made infrequent trips to town or to a church service or maybe to a funeral. Mom’s apron was the last item of clothing she donned every morning and she wore it until she went to bed, seven days a week. Most other women, on the Blair Branch of my youth, would not have felt adequately dressed at home if they didn’t have their aprons on.
Aprons had to have a pocket. Before Mom quit smoking, she packed cigarettes and matches in the pocket. In the garden, the pocket usually carried packets of flower or vegetable seeds. It also provided ready storage for pencils, loose change, or any other small item she found lying around. If a black or red checker, Rook card, or a marble went missing, the first and best place to look it was Mom’s apron pocket.
She was also very handy with a sewing machine and often made aprons for other women, especially my bevy of aunts. Lots of women wore bibbed aprons that tied behind both their necks and at their waists, sort of like those you see television chefs cooking in these days, but Mom, and most other women in my family, preferred the style that only tied at the waist and covered the front of their dresses to well below their knees.
Mom always said that if a woman’s knees were showing, her dress was way too short. She would have screamed at the girls to put some clothes on if she had ever set foot on my college campus.
Aunt Lona used to say that Mom was the only one in the family who could make an apron to suit her. Aunt Lona smoked Prince Albert rolling tobacco so her apron pocket had to be about twice as large as normal to accommodate her tobacco can, rolling papers and a box of matches. Aunt Lona, also went through a lot of aprons because when she sat down to smoke, ashes off her cigarette would fall in her lap and burn holes in them. “Better the apron, than my good dress,” she’d say.