Sunday, August 7, 2011

Home Economics with Olivia Pimento, Part I

My mother did not teach me to cook or sew.  She left those tasks to Harper Elementary School.
In 7th grade, the boys were shuffled off to Industrial Arts to make birdhouses, hanging key holders and book ends.  The girls were herded into the care of Mrs. Olivia Pimento, the terrifying Teacher of Home Economics.  The year was 1958. 
Our Home Econimics Teacher, Mrs. Olivia Pimento
Mrs. Pimento’s mission was to teach us to sew.  I was eager to learn.  My grandmother had been an imaginative designer and skilled seamstress, sewing dresses, play clothes, doll clothes and a big stuffed rabbit.  My eleven year old imagination was swirling with visions of ball gowns, tutus and Sunday School dresses streaming from my partnership with the magical Singer sewing machine.  

Mrs. Pimento had a different idea.  We would make aprons.  We would need them next year in the 8th grade Cooking Gulag. 

I remember aprons.  The women in my family wore them.  There were cute, practical everyday aprons made of colorful printed cottons trimmed with contrasting piping, ruffles and rick rack.  There were appliqu├ęd, ball-fringed holiday aprons.  My mom had luncheon aprons made of crisp organdy and organza cocktail aprons with sequins.  They were works of art.  Some of them were even sexy. 

Mrs. Pimento fancied none of them.  Her taste ran to depressing, dorky and repulsive.  Her fabric choice was plain solid cotton to highlight future cooking stains.  Mrs. Pimento instinctively knew each girl’s favorite color and made sure the apron was not it.   

I love bright red, so my fabric was yellowish sickly brownish green.  No trim.  No ball fringe.  No ruffles. No piping.  No sequins.  The apron would have a bib, a gathered skirt and pockets.  It looked a lot like this, but without the snappy print fabric.

We all managed to finish the year with an apron in spite of our loathsome teacher.  They were an homage to ugly.  And a great disappointment to Mrs. Pimento. 
A Disappointed Mrs. Pimento
The highlight of 7th grade sewing was the carnage.  One of the girls, already terrified by the sewing machine, got her finger caught in the needle.  Her apron was the best.  It was the one with the bloodstains.

Aprons off to you, Mrs. Pimento.