The dark tan canvas apron hung in the shed for years.
When the apron was first purchased the ties that crisscrossed the back from the shoulders to around the waist could encompass my middle twice and tie in front. Many years later I surrendered to being a bit thicker with maturity and tied it in the back.
I was in my twenties when I bought the apron. Thirty-some years ago, the pockets in women’s jeans were not deep enough for small tools, and they didn’t hold much more than a hankie. Cargo pants were not yet available outside of military issue. The only sturdy aprons available were for roofers, and those pockets too were not suited for carrying garden tools. Searching through commercial clothing catalogs, since there was no Internet then, I eventually found what was needed.
It was an apron not for the faint of heart. The cotton canvas material was rather thick, stiff and warm. Perfect for cool spring days, but in the heat of summer, rather than wearing the apron I often dragged it across the ground or stretch it between the handles of a wheelbarrow.
I never thought much about that apron until now. It was a tool that was well loved and well used. It held not only pruners, hand saws, knives and trowels but also assorted sprays for repelling bugs or packages of fertilizers…which often tore open due to the aforementioned tools. The pockets would carry seeds and bulbs for planting in the spring, and handfuls of flower heads collected in the fall.
Each winter when it was too cold to do much in the gardens, the apron would get its yearly laundering. Turning it upside down and holding the straps, I would smack it vigorously against a tree trunk to knock off embedded dirt and free whatever had accumulated deep in the pockets. Once cleaned, it would then do double duty indoors as I attended to household painting, repairs or working with stained glass.
The apron carried more than physical elements for the garden. It also held a gardener’s expectation for renewed life, something not easily attained. It takes work and dedication that is fed by love to keep a garden growing and well. Gardeners work and sweat against the elements and with the flow of nature. Over the years we may lose a few battles as when there is a hard freeze late in the season, a drought ensues, or when hail storms level what was once beautiful. Picking up our tools, we start again fully accepting the occurrence and trusting in the future.
That garden apron was a visible sign. It was a symbol of a frayed and worn hope—a hope for renewal, of trust, and a confidence that we can work through whatever befalls us.
Eventually after years of service that cotton canvas apron was beyond repair. The pockets were more holes than material and the UV from the sun had weakened what remained of the fiber. One day late in June I cut it into pieces for composting and returned it to the earth…a very fitting end for a well worn life.