My mother was sitting at her sewing machine as I walked into the kitchen. This activity was not an unusual site. She was a fabulous seamstress and could turn the simplest patterns into masterpieces.
“What are you making, Mom?” I inquired.
“Oh, I had some scraps of fabrics and thought I would make a few aprons. Mine are looking tired,” she replied as she stitched away.
My mother never entered the kitchen without wearing an apron. Neither did my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and any grandmothers before that. Aprons were as important a staple as a frying pan.
Until the day she died, when I prepared a meal, my mother would ask, “Where is your apron?” She would then reach into my pantry, find an apron, and tie one around my waist.
“Why take a chance you could ruin your clothes?” she would say. And, of course, I had no answer.
After Mom passed away, I was going through her things. I found the drawer where the aprons lay neatly, waiting to be touched again with those loving hands.
I picked them up one by one and studied the detail. Mama had hand cross-stitched along the hemline and pocket of one. Another one made of patchworked fabrics and lace was a beauty. All of them were wonderfully crafted and as precious as a $ 1,000 pair of Jimmy Choo shoes or a Prada bag.
Michele is my friend who was preparing to celebrate a birthday. There are a few of us who still buy each other a small gift when we turn a page on age. We like to make our birthdays a bit special, so Michele, Deborah, Ricki and I planned to celebrate over lunch.
We drove to the birthday girl’s restaurant of choice, which was a French café in the heart of the luxurious Buckhead Shops of Atlanta. Expensive hotels, fine dining, and the stores of Prada, Gucci, and of course, Jimmy Choo shoes surround the bistro.
As we dined on the patio, we watched a parade of luxury cars, as well as luxuriously clad people of all ages, pass.
Michele’s heritage is partly French, plus she can even speak a bit of the language. She is a tiny girl with impeccable, exquisite taste who was reared in New England, educated in the West, and raised in all things proper. Michele became an executive for a major company out of college and retired from the same firm. Her glass ceiling shattered before the rest of us understood what that even meant.
Michele’s clothes are of the most excellent quality, with an array of purses and jewelry that always coordinate. She was right at home sitting amid the beautiful shops and enjoying the exquisite food of the French café.
As she reached to open her present from me, I wondered why in the world I would give her the gift lying in the black and white wrapped box.
I got the old sewing machine out a few weeks prior and decided to make an apron or two — a lost art. Since Michele had everything, I thought at the time; this would be something different and possibly something she did not own.
Yes, you can buy an apron for a song, but not the ones like my Mama made or my grandmother, or my great-grandmother. No, “homemade” is the real apron. Don’t ask me why, but they work better.
I selected a French fabric with shades of roses, blacks, and greens. I carefully applied trim and gathered the skirt. I centered the designs and cut it shorter for my petite friend. I pressed, folded, and wrapped it in white tissue and placed it in the box.
Now, as I was sitting among the glitter of midtown Atlanta, I felt that I possibly had the wrong gift for Michele. What was I thinking?!
After our delicious meal, she opened her present. Her eyes lit up, and she exclaimed she loved it. She held it up to study it, smiled, and then put it in her large, beautiful purse.
After we ate, we started walking around to the various shops and window dreaming.
We turned the corner, and Michele marched through the doors marked “Jimmy Choo.” We all followed. I stood in the center of this small shop and gazed at the elegantly displayed shoes on every glass shelf. My mouth fell wide open.
The shoes were enticing me with their beauty. When I picked one up and saw the price, I almost dropped it. However, I could see why they were treasures to those who could afford them.
“I have a pair on, and I love them!” Michele said as if she were walking around in a pair of tennis shoes.
For the rest of the afternoon, I made a mindful promise not to step on Michele’s Jimmy Choos!
As we started home, we decided to stop for coffee at the Starbucks near our houses. One can run into a lot of people you know in this little shopping center.
Michele was sitting in the back seat rummaging through her purse and pulled out the apron.
“What are you doing?” I shockingly stated as she stepped out of the car and tied on her apron.
“I want to see what it looks like on me!”
Truthfully, it looked adorable and fit perfectly.
“Well, I love it so much that I am going to wear it!” she said emphatically.
So, off went little Michele in her Jimmy Choo wedges wearing her handmade apron through the shops near our homes with not a worry in the world. Proper was out the window.
Magnificent were the shoes, precious was the apron, and beautiful was the birthday girl who abandoned all that was normal for her to celebrate friendship joyously.
With a twinkle in her eye, Mama would have proudly tied the French apron strings around Michele’s waist while proclaiming, “Why take a chance of ruining those Jimmy Choo shoes?”