One thing often forgotten in the confusion of a family death is the afterwards. The drawers and closets of socks and sweaters and shirts. Pants. Dresses. Purses. Hidden letters. Trinkets bought and tucked away. And shoes.
I’d never thought about all these little pieces of my Mother’s life. The shoes she worn and loved. What did they mean to her? Which were her favorites? The ones she only tolerated? White Keds. Black pumps. Soft suede casuals. And what about the broken ones left abandoned on the closet floor? Why did she keep them? What did they mean to her that she didn’t throw them away.
She was a tosser, opposite to my Father, the Yankee. If you didn’t need it, don’t keep it. If it’s broken. Toss. How many of my cherished toys broke and vanished? But back to shoes.
My Father asked my sister and I to go through Mom’s clothes. I can understand he didn’t want to make those decisions, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be for me. They were just shoes.
My sister went through and tossed the broken and scuffed shoes, separating the trash from those good enough to donate, leaving those she thought one of us could wear. And so I found myself sitting before Mom’s closet, shoes spread around on the floor. Memories of a life gone forever.
At first, I was interested. What girl wouldn’t be interested in new(er) shoes? (Not that I’m a shoe freak by any mean, but come on….) My sister and aunt, both there for the great shoe distribution, kept handing me shoes.
“Look at these. Almost new. I bet they will fit you.”
“Are you sure you don’t want these, too?”
“You can’t have too many black pumps.”
And the heartbreaker – “Mom would want you to wear them.”
Skip to later. At home, sitting on the floor in front of my much smaller closet, shoes spread on the floor before me. Do I want them? Yes and no. Maybe she would want me to wear them, but can I?
I pick up the soft suede casuals, try them on. I really like the style. It’s me all the way but….I can remember her wearing them, loving them. And then I can’t put them on again.
White Keds. Still in the box with the receipt. She loved Keds. White. Blue. Red. How many days did I see her in Keds? How can I wear them?
Black Pumps. I remember her wearing them to Church and special events. In fact, I remember her wearing them more than any of her other dress shoes.
Memories in shoes. The boxes sit on my bedroom floor for weeks, pushed back and forth depending on the dresser drawer I need to open. Then I toss them in the closet – in their boxes still – because I can’t bear to look at them. On the other hand, I can’t bear to give them away.
I don’t need them. Most of the time, I think I should donate them. Somebody would love them. In the end, however, I can’t bear the thought of anybody else wearing my Mother’s shoes.