There are some memories that never become so obscured they are erased completely. Some memories that are tucked away in special little drawers and only a certain smell or taste brings them out again.
I have one such memory of a little white apron. This apron was so special it was only used at communion times.
My parents were members of the Old German Baptist Brethren Church until I was around eight years old. It was the job of little girls, at least back then, to help serve at the communion mealtimes. Communion was an all-weekend affair and they’d serve several meals of simmered roast beef which you could make into a sandwich with butter, apple butter, and bread and butter pickles.
I recently made a facebook comment about this sandwich and it’s surprising to see the reactions of folks concerning this little meal. Some folks who have never tasted an apple butter/roast beef/sweet pickle sandwich think it sounds . . . . well, pretty bad. But if you grew up eating it, then it is absolutely delicious.
However, there is a special way to make that sandwich. You must first start with a piece of soft bread. I preferred the white – which child doesn’t? Then you slather on a thick enough layer of real butter to keep the next layer of apple butter from making your bread so soggy your meat slips out. After the apple butter comes the hot roast beef. I like to lay mine in strips like little toy soldiers all lined up so that there isn’t a big chunk in one corner of the sandwich. Next comes the bread and butter pickles. Here is where I had to put a good pile of pickles on my plate just to eat alone. Mmmm, I can almost taste that sandwich right now.
Then there is the soup that comes with the meal. And if you already don’t like the sandwich, chances are you won’t like the soup. They take pieces of bread and break them into a bowl. Then over the bread they pour the broth from the simmered roast beef. I’ve tried to remake that soup, but somehow I cannot do it. It needs to be made by men in big white aprons that cook the beef all day long. At least that’s what it seemed like to me as a 7-year-old girl.
As I mentioned, it was our job to help serve these meals. And we did it proudly! Mom made each of us girls a special, white apron to wear. I can even remember the exact closet my mother stored them in. I am in the middle of three girls, so she had her hands full sewing for us. Sometimes she’d even make matching dresses to wear with our aprons. We’d look like little stairstep dolls with the same braids hanging down our back, the matching dresses and little white aprons.
At church, we’d peek into the kitchen where all the men with the long beards and big white aprons were stirring the meat. We weren’t allowed in there, so we stayed right outside to watch for the bowls they placed on the counter. Then we’d proudly take the bowls of meat and soup to our tables. When they were empty, we’d go refill them.
These memories are embedded in my heart. I don’t know why some memories are more special than others, but this is one of them. I’ve since married a Mennonite man and my children have no memories of little white aprons, soggy soup, and long-bearded cooks. But they have their own special childhood memories and someday there will be something that triggers it and they’ll say “remember when…..”
But for me, every time I eat a roast beef and apple butter sandwich, I remember a girl in a little white apron.