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How Mom dressed for success

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On summer mornings, my mother donned a cobbler's apron with five pockets and took off with the dog to check all the neighbors' cellar window wells. Her mission? Rabbit rescue.

The Kansas subdivision where we lived had been pasture just a year earlier, and the rabbits were still confused. Baby bunnies, looking for a burrow, any burrow, or perhaps just trying to hop from here to there, fell into the window wells. They would probably have met a dismal fate if it hadn't been for my mother.

For the few weeks it took the bunnies to develop some common sense, Mother tied on her cobbler's apron and set out daily on her quest. She scooped exhausted, dehydrated, and frightened little bunnies from the 18-inch-deep pits and popped them into her pockets. Ginger, our golden retriever, caught on quickly, racing ahead to check all the houses on our block and barking whenever she found a rabbit.

As the rising sun banished the dew, Mother returned home with her apron pockets overflowing with brown and befuddled furry critters, soft ears and big eyes showing above the pocket tops. More than once, she came into the bedroom where I lay sleeping and unloaded her menagerie onto my bed.

To waken from the sleep of childhood surrounded by a bevy of bunnies was magical. Mother and I played with them a bit before releasing them, and I've had a fondness for cobbler's aprons ever since.

Like most women of the 1950s, Mother stayed home all day, running the household with the skill of a domestic engineer. She donned her cobbler's apron before she served us breakfast and didn't remove it till right before dinner. Then she put it on again to wash the dishes, tidy up the kitchen, supervise homework, and monitor our evening baths. She took it off for the last time as we pulled storybooks from the shelves and curled up together to read "Little Women" or "The Swiss Family Robinson."

It seemed to me that the pockets of her apron held enough supplies to support her on a trek across the rolling prairies, if necessary. Her standard inventory included tissues, dog biscuits, Band-Aids, crayons, clothespins, lipstick, raisins, and rubber bands. Hershey bars and bananas, Mother's interpretation of survival food, often made an appearance.

That apron was always the first place my father looked for the mail and the car keys. It was usually the last place he looked, too.


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