by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter
I will never forget a treasured gift I received from my paternal grandmother over fifty years ago. I was barely three, but I still can envision in my mind’s eye how Grandma watched with anticipation as I opened a package and pulled out a red gingham checked apron she had sewn for me.
The single pocket on the front was solid red cotton, cut out and sewn in the shape of a baby carriage with two large buttons for wheels. A white chain stitch was embroidered and topped off with a flat pearl button for the carriage handle. What made the apron the perfect gift for a girly-girl like me was the itty-bitty plastic doll with blinking eyes tucked inside the carriage pocket.
Grandma believed in learning life skills early. My tiny hands were taught to set and clear the table. Baking cookies was also part of my early childhood training. Grandma would set me on a chair that faced the kitchen counter of the old farmhouse, tie my gingham apron around my tiny waist, and my cooking lessons would begin. We would bake all kinds of delicious cookies. Grandpa loved smelling the tantalizing aroma of cinnamon and gingerbread that wafted through the whole house. My job was to put the red hots and raisins on the gingerbread man’s tummy and face. When all the baking was done, Grandma would fold my apron and put it in a cabinet drawer. Then I would crawl up in her lap and listen as she read The Gingerbread Man.
In 1997, Grandma was diagnosed with terminal inflammatory breast cancer. I wondered how I would go on without her daily presence in my life. As the time for her departure grew near, we spoke often of favorite family memories. I mentioned the gingham apron. She smiled and said, “Life’s simple treasures are always the best.”
Even though I knew Grandma was in heaven, I suffered with agonizing grief when she died. I found comfort in the old hymns about heaven and God’s Word. And for some strange reason, whenever I examined the familiar gingham apron, my grieving soul was soothed.
I have a special drawer in my kitchen for the precious heirloom. On days I feel I’m losing eternal perspective I take it from its hiding place. Its symbolism helps keep me grounded. Every inch of it resonates my godly grandmother’s life. The three buttons are still securely fastened even after fifty years—so like Grandma. She was always predictable and dependable. The decorative chain stitch represents Grandma’s keen ability to keep all of our family linked together no matter what life tossed our way. And the little baby tucked in the pocket symbolizes a little girl God has kept safe and sheltered from life’s howling winds because of my grandmother’s prayers fifty years ago. Even though the apron no longer fits around my ballooning waist, it fits around my heart just fine.