Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Autumn's Treasures

Autumn has been taking me on a treasure hunt. I’m lured by jewel-like colors and fleeting scents to find the moment’s gem. Brief, and timed just for this season, the little gifts invite me to slow down to savor them. 

In my yard, heads of rosy sedum have changed from the green of August to the pale pink of early September, and now to rich rose. Tall clusters of them draw me, and the butterflies, out to the flower beds. 

Like purple BBs, the fruit of the beauty berry bush lies in clusters along the arching stems. 

Red berries grow now in the wild dogwood trees, and a swarm of thirty or so little chattering birds whoosh into the tree to eat, and then down to the ground. They lift in a tight group, swirl and return.  Their gathering reminds me that soon I will hear huge flocks of them filling a group of trees with their babble, and then they'll lift off-- sometimes creating a sky path that covers a quarter of a mile. 

Out my front door the holly I have trained into a tree showers me with a floral fragrance from its small white blossoms. The first fall it happened I stopped on the porch and had to follow the scent to the source. I never knew holly could smell like a tropical flower. Now I look forward to its annual arrival.

My neighbors celebrate with lawn decorations. My favorites aren’t the spooks and haints (Appalachian for ghost). I like the scarecrows who are welcoming in their go-to-meetin’ clothes, with straw bales, mums and pumpkins as symbols of the changing season. 

In commemoration of love ones passed, the flowers on the headstones change from pastels to oranges and yellows and reds.  And while out walking though the cemetery I smell the first wood smoke of the season promising comfort and coziness.

May autumn's pleasures capture you today. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thank You, Danke, Gracias

What do brides hate and grandmothers love?  Thank you notes.

I was raised to show respect with my manners. I responded to adult questions and instructions with “yes ma’am”  and “no sir.”  I wore white gloves to church and my cotillion dance lessons. My hankies were clean and pressed, tucked into a pocket for any emergency. I wrote thank you notes for gifts received. 

In the culture wars of the 1960’s in San Francisco the old manners were dropped like a hot plate without an oven mitt.  Buses had to hang signs reminding us that the front seats were for the infirm and elderly. I remember a young mom toting her baby in one arm and hanging onto the overhead bar on the bus with the other. A business man sat on the aisle and ignored her difficulty - until the baby, jolted with every bump, spit up on him. 

Living as a young adult in the unstarched West, people my senior told me to call them by their first names. People only wore gloves for cold weather. And I seldom sent thank yous.

Then I moved to North Carolina, officially part of the fabled American South.  I noted two major differences in good manners. First, my fellow teachers called me Mrs. Glover instead of Pam.  Young teachers answered me with “yes ma’am”. And second, everybody wrote thank you notes--for everything!

It took a while but I learned to write them too. The first big hint was when I got monogramed note paper for a gift. Of course, I wrote a thank you back on it.  Once I took dinner to a young mom who was bedridden and got the thank you note so quickly I thought she must have had it written before I delivered the meal.  

When invited to a luncheon I took flowers as a hostess gift.  A couple of days later, I got a note from my hostess. I was agog to receive a thank you for my thank you! 

I’m doing my part to pass along this good habit.  My grandson, husband and I recently went kayaking with friends. Later I told Sam he’d have to write a thank you. He was mystified. “I never had to write a note for going to somebody’s house before!” My son-in-law explained that he’d write one if he wanted to get invited back. So he did. And this week, Sam got a thank you note from our hostess for his note. 

It’s taken some getting used to, but I see this little ritual as a gentle reminder that every act of kindness deserves attention--and it's worth every word you put on paper. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Aprons - beyond the kitchen

I’m not much of a collector. I don’t have oodles of purses like some women or tiny blown-glass animals like my great Aunt Clara. But I am fond of aprons and have many than I can use. They have much to commend them; they don’t have to be dusted or displayed in expensive cabinets.  They don’t cost so much I feel guilty. 

A Aprons are artifacts of culture, whether home-made or manufactured. I love the ones sewn by creative housewives during the 1940s and ‘50s.  Some aprons are pleated, many have clever pockets, while others are gathered and full as a dance skirts.  I value them as bits of beauty.

P       Usually they're practical and sturdy for wiping messy hands or catching a last minute spill. I use many of mine, but some are too fancy. One is made of sheer net, with satin ribbon ties. It must have been for party wear. 

I love to display them. For example, here I used them as place mats. My back door window displays three in a column to keep the sun out.  I have hung them on blank walls as textile art pieces, or draped them four and five at a time on folding rack. 

R      They remind me of people and places.
In Guatemala I bought an apron woven and sewn at a women’s collective. The fabric is heavy and dark, shot through with subtle variations in the threads that create designs within the design. This type of apron was traditionally a gift from mother-in-law to her son’s new bride to symbolize the change in kitchen leadership! 

 Later at the market one of the weavers recognized me and helped me buy an every day apron, a gingham skirt of pleats and rick-rack with a concealed zipper pocket to safeguard the shopping cash. 
My grandmothers wore aprons all of the time. I have one I took apart for a pattern and remade in vintage fabric. My great-grandmother hand-stitched a plain white apron of lightweight fine cotton with beautiful lace and a tiny gathered pocket. I can’t imagine she’d ever wear it to cook in. 
     A friend gave me her grandmother's tiny, tiny crocheted apron. It has a bib which she pinned to her dress while serving at church potlucks.

O Sure, they're old fashioned but not obsolete. There’s a web community of apron collectors. And there’s a resurgence in hand-made aprons. My grandkids and their momma received matching aprons last Christmas. (Not from me.)  Window-shopping at the airport recently I drooled over a colorful bibbed apron which would have been a guilty pleasure had I bought it. 

N I have to wear an apron to stay neat and clean when I cook. Otherwise, I’m like a kid who wipes her hands on her clothes.

S     For so many reasons aprons are special. When I open my apron drawer, or look in the bags that keep my collection color-coded and dust-free, I see a metaphor for a synapse. Each one makes a connection between me and some woman I will never met--but wondered about while I handle her apron.
Can painted plates or salt and pepper shakers do that? 

Leave a comment about your favorite apron!