I was waiting in the car while Jon dropped off some papers for our neighbor’s son, John who runs the sawmill. But then Barbara, who is named after her mother, opened the screen door of their house and waved for me to come in.
“I thought you’d want to see what Lena is sewing”, Jon said as I walked in.
Enough light to sew by filled the west-facing window where Lena sat at the red sewing machine. I watched her foot on the metal treadle going up and down as she stitched a perfectly straight line along the edge of the fabric. She folded the 1/4″ seam over as she sewed.
These were their good Church aprons. Thin white fabric with small evenly spaced pleats.
Lena was cutting two inches off one side, to make the apron smaller. “We’ve all lost weight,” Barbara, said. The stitches were small, close together, and fine. I asked Lena if the machine ever gives her any trouble. They just had the one she was using refurbished, so it was working well, but yes, she said, they can be trouble.
Then Barbara took the apron and wrapped it around my waist. ” See,” she said, “how good it fits.” She pinned it so Jon could take a picture. It fell just above my ankles.
A moment later a wagon pulled in front of the house. Their sister was visiting with her children. Barbara ran out and came back holding a baby. “Here,” she said and placed the baby in my arms.
I have not held a lot of babies, and the only aprons I’ve ever worn were when I was making art.
I have to admit I often wonder what they think of me in my summer dresses, so much of my body exposed while they’re covered from head to ankle. A part of me feels like I should cover my shoulders as if I’m back in church.
But I felt no judgment coming from any of the women in the house including their mother. And Barbara, undeterred by my bare skin and sundress, acted like it was the most natural thing in the world to pin an apron around my waist and place a baby in my arms.
I guess for her it is. For Barbara, it’s what women do.
And in those moments, I felt welcomed. As if Barbara was saying, we’re not so different after all.