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Who first wrote about Grandma's Apron?

American housewife and poet Tina Trivett was ropable (or fit to be tied), and apparently with good reason. Years ago, she wrote a delightful poem, Grandma's Apron, in memory of her much-loved grandmother, and in 1999 posted it on a poetry website chosen at random.

Since then, she says, it's been stolen, mutilated, with various lines changed, and posted in at least 10 versions on hundreds of websites around the world, usually attributed to "author unknown." Whether any of the amendments have improved the original poem is debatable.

"It has been a frustrating last couple of years," Tina told us. "My poem has been changed around, borrowed from, added to, and shortened. It's on family tree websites, poetry websites, kitchen websites... It's everywhere.

"I wrote the poem years ago for my Grandmother when she passed. She was a sweet dear lady who lived to be 96. She was from Kentucky, wife of a farmer, mother of 13 children. She may have treated herself to a few puffs from a corncob pipe once in a while, but she was also very dignified.

"She wore a fresh, crisp, clean apron over her dress every day. The pockets held little treasures like chewing gum and mints. When she passed, I was in the middle of a snowstorm in the North Carolina mountains, and could not attend her funeral in Kentucky. That's where the poem 'Grandma's Apron' came from.

"Then came the year 1999 and I posted my poem on a random poetry site. Probably out of boredom. In 2004, I did a Google search for the site I'd put it on.

"When I found my poem on several sites, my heart sank. But I have just come to this conclusion: I wrote the poem, yes. But if someone can read it and bring back fond memories of their own Grandmother, then having it stolen was worth it. If it brings good feelings to those who read it, all is well. I can't imagine that there is any way to stop the spread of it.

"As for the person who originally stole my work and added to it...well, I suppose karma goes both ways."

Asked for details about herself, Tina said "I live on Lake Hartwell, Georgia, with my husband, four teenage children, four dogs and four cats. Good things come in fours around here, I guess.

"I've written some other poetry. I posted some of it here but mostly I just share it with the children. I also draw, quilt and love to bake. I sell antique fabrics, quilts and misc.

"My husband designs cedar and log homes. My boys have a band, so the house is always quite busy with teenagers. We enjoy watching them play, but I secretly long for the day when my living-room turns back into a peaceful retreat instead of a guitar/drums warehouse."

Here are the original words of Tina's poem:

Grandma's Apron
by Tina Trivett

 

The strings were tied, It was freshly washed, and maybe even pressed.
For Grandma, it was everyday to choose one when she dressed.
The simple apron that it was, you would never think about;
the things she used it for, that made it look worn out.

She may have used it to hold, some wildflowers that she'd found.
Or to hide a crying child's face, when a stranger came around.
Imagine all the little tears that were wiped with just that cloth.
Or it became a potholder to serve some chicken broth.

She probably carried kindling to stoke the kitchen fire.
To hold a load of laundry, or to wipe the clothesline wire.
When canning all her vegetables, it was used to wipe her brow.
You never know, she might have used it to shoo flies from the cow.

She might have carried eggs in from the chicken coop outside.
Whatever chore she used it for, she did them all with pride.
When Grandma went to heaven, God said she now could rest.
I'm sure the apron that she chose, was her Sunday best.

I miss you Grandma...

And here is an amended version that had arrived in our mailbox and prompted our search for its author:

Grandma's Apron
(author unknown)

 

When I used to visit Grandma. I was very much impressed,
by her all-purpose apron, and the power it possessed.
For Grandma, it was everyday to choose one when she dressed.
The strings were tied and freshly washed, and maybe even pressed.
The simple apron that it was, you would never think about;
the things she used it for, that made it look worn out.
She used it for a basket, when she gathered up the eggs,
and flapped it as a weapon, when hens pecked her feet and legs.
She used it to carry kindling when she stoked the kitchen fire.
And to hold a load of laundry, or to wipe the clothesline wire.
She used it for a hot pad, to remove a steaming pan,
and when her brow was heated, she used it for a fan.
It dried our childish tears, when we'd scrape a knee and cry,
and made a hiding place when the little ones were shy.
Farm produce took in season, in the summer, spring and fall,
found its way into the kitchen from Grandma's carry all.
When Grandma went to heaven, God said she now could rest.
I'm sure the apron she chose that day, was her Sunday best.

We traced that version back to a Canadian website in Saskatchewan, Alberta.

Grandma's Apron is a hackneyed theme. Many other poems and stories on the world's websites bear little or no resemblance to Tina's poem. For instance, here's a completely different poem with the same title, from C J Heck's book, Barking Spiders and Other Such Stuff:

Grandma's Apron
by C J Heck

Gramma's gone, but not forgotten,
that's her apron hanging there.
It still hangs in Grampa's kitchen.
Sometimes he looks at it and stares.
When Gramma wore her apron
it was magical to see.
The pockets held such treasures
for the grandkids just like me.
Saw it shine up Grampa's fender once
just as pretty as you please,
and it wiped my brother's cheek off
one time when he sneezed.
It took cookies from the oven,
it rushed to wipe a tear,
got a grain of sand out of your eye,
made a lap for the stories we'd hear.
It wiped spills up from the counter top
when she was baking pies,
a symbol of her love and care
and it showed, too, in her eyes.
Sometimes I'm sad to look at it
when I see my Grampa stare.
Gramma's gone, but not forgotten.
That's her apron hanging there.

CJ Heck
C J Heck

   

Born and raised in Ohio, C J Heck lives in Bedford, New Hampshire with her husband. She has three daughters and five grandsons. Her website says: "Besides fiction and non-fiction short stories, CJ writes poetry of all kinds -- but her favorite will always be poetry for children from a child's point of view."

A Canadian website, RetirementWithAPurpose.com. has posted an interesting story headed Grandma's Apron which concludes with this witticism:

Remember this: Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool; her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.


FOOTNOTE FOR NON-OZ READERS.

Ropable: In Australia's colonial years, cattle that were so cranky that only roping could control them were called ropable, meaning angry or extremely annoyed (in other words, mad as a hornet).

Fit to be tied: Cassell's Dictionary of Slang says the phrase evokes someone "so hysterically furious that they need to be tied down". However, given that in the mid-19th century the straitjacket was in common use for restraining mental patients, I think it's very likely that that is indeed what the phrase is meant to imply- Victoria S Dennis on a UK bulletin board, The Phrase Finder.

Links
 

Story first posted April 2006

Copyright 2006

Eric Shackle

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