“If only these aprons could talk.”
Well, Brainerd resident Guy Kelm’s wife’s aprons talked — which inspired Kelm to begin the realization of a lifelong dream — the publication in January of his first book, “The Apron: Stories From the Farm.”
“The Apron: Stories From the Farm” is a book Kelm wrote in honor of his mother, Caroline, who passed away at age 82 in 2009. Kelm wanted to write a story about his mother, who raised 11 children on a farm in Pine Center, while his father drove truck. Kelm said the family farm burned down when he was in first grade, but they turned it into a vegetable farm. He said they had a contract with Gedney for pickles.
“My mother’s life was cooking, cleaning and managing the kids and she was so graceful about it,” said Kelm. “She never complained ... It was her mission to raise a family. It wasn’t terrible to be her kids. All of us felt like we were the only ones in her life.”
Kelm said his book focuses on his mother’s daily jobs that included making eight loaves of bread twice a week and making dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls.
“I’d try to sneak a loaf of bread from my mother,” said Kelm. “I loved her fresh baked bread.”
Kelm writes about all the laundry his mother did — so much that she had to haul it outside to hang it up on the line. He also wrote about the oatmeal cookies she made.
“I wanted to capture the moments I had with my mother,” said Kelm. “I wrote a whole page about her cookies, about when there was that one time when they were just not good enough. I have a lot of memories with my mother ... I was the more demanding child.”
Kelm began writing the book in 2010 and used the phrase of “if these aprons could talk” to help share his mother’s stories with the idea that the aprons she wore daily “could tell many tales.” Kelm said his wife has a collection of about 50 aprons, some from the 1950s and that collection inspired the idea for the book.
Kelm wrote “The Apron: Stories From the Farm” as a children’s picture book, since he loves children and he has been an elementary school teacher for 20 years, with the last six years teaching second grade at Riverside Elementary School. Kelm said he wanted to write the book, not only for his mother, but also for teachers to use in their classrooms as a learning tool of sharing simple stories of the past to students.
One of Kelm’s substitute teachers, Brady Bussler of Breezy Point, was able to help make his book a reality as Bussler did the illustrations for the book. It was the first time Bussler used his watercolor artistic skills for a book.
“I was excited when Guy asked me to illustrate his book,” said Bussler. “Illustrating a book is something I always wanted to do, but I never knew how to start.”
Bussler, who is an architect at Widseth Smith and Nolting, said he enrolled in art classes throughout high school and college and art has always been a hobby of his. Bussler said he’s had his art displayed at art shows throughout the Brainerd lakes area. Bussler paints a variety of people, landscapes and sports related objects. He did a painting for the Los Angeles Kings of Willie Mitchell holding up the Stanley Cup the team won last year.
Bussler said he and Kelm worked side by side as Kelm helped him visualize what he was looking for with each story he told in the book. Bussler said they took photos of barns and other things and staged photos to help make each art piece perfect. Bussler said it took about five to eight hours for him to create each painting for the book.
Kelm said since he wrote “The Apron: Stories From the Farm” he has written more books. He said he hopes to have his next book out in June.
“The Apron: Stories From the Farm” is currently available online at greenkitepublishing.com or www.bradybussler.com; or at Cat Tales Books and Gifts or The Olde Open Window in Brainerd.