Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Musings--Favorite Shoes

Since today is Monday, and not everyone is ready to jump right in to the work week on Mondays, I thought I would pose an exercise that might humor us, divert us from the news of the day, or perhaps give pause for reflection.

My question is: What is your favorite pair of shoes?

It is a fairly open ended question. They can be any pair you have owned but, as in my case, not necessarily have worn. They can be your ballet shoes when you were five years old, your Wellingtons, your saddle shoes (some might be dating ourselves here), your riding boots or whatever else you choose.

Then, tell us the story. If they are your favorite shoes, surely there is one.
Here is mine:

Grandma's Booties

I had two grandma's. Some people have none, some have half a dozen. I had two and my favorite one was Grandma Hilvers, my mother's mother. She lived in the same clapboard house on the first rise west of the Mississippi, where my mother grew up, in Dubuque Iowa.

Allow me to divert a minute. Two weeks ago, one of my brothers queried the rest of the family as to whether they remembered where that house was. Seems he recently met someone at work who hailed from Dubuque and the question arose. No one could come up with the answer despite spending at least a dozen summers there growing up. Two hours later the answer just popped into my head. Go figure. Hadn't written that address on an envelope in probably thirty years.

1460 Dodge Street, now cemented over by Highway 20 which runs east to Chicago and west through cities I recognized like Sioux City, Casper, Cody, Boise and stops at the Pacific Ocean in Yaquina Bay, Oregon...not far from Portland. I have a dear friend in Portland, have never been there, might follow Highway 20 in its entirety some day.

Anyway, the Hilvers family was basically impoverished. They didn't see it as a bad thing, but compared to my father's childhood with country clubs and fancy parties, the Hilvers' humble lifestyle with two entire families, grandparents, parents, and three kids, crammed into three bedrooms was substantially lower key. Every gift we received from Grandma and Grandpa Hilvers was endearingly hand-made including the booties I received when I was pregnant with my first daughter, Jennifer. They were so incredibly tiny I couldn't imagine they would ever fit a human, but they did.

And, as often happens with me, I lost track of them after our third daughter's first few months of life when I could no longer squeeze her tiny feet into the soft, cozy footware. I was sure I had packed them away but probably not as carefully as I should have, given their significance. My excuse was that I was a working mom, running my own flower business and raising three daughters, tending a husband, cooking, walking dogs, driving to soccer games and violin lessons, the whole nine yards.

When Jenny was a sophomore in college my husband and I decided expand our house, something we should have done years earlier but couldn't afford. To make a long story shorter many disasters befell us during this project including the wholesale deluge of our basement over our storage shelves in late September. I mean, we needed Noah's Ark just to navigate the waters that went straight from the grey, rain laden skies into our house with a force like Niagra Falls.

The clean-up process was a nightmare and, unfortunately, some of it was put off until after Christmas. The time frame for a florist from October through December 25 is hellacious.
So, in the calm of a dreary January Saturday I began to pull down the boxes of memories that still lay on the storage shelves. With trepidation I opened one, now slightly dusted with mold, to find layer upon layer of baby clothes, laundered, neatly folded and layered with tissue. Most of them were ruined, which broke my heart. But for some strange reason both Grandma Hilvers' baby booties and the christening gown she had hand sewn and embroidered, survived relatively unscathed.

You would have thought, for all the happy tears I shed, that I'd discovered a million dollars tucked away for a rainy day and then forgotten, when in fact it was a rainy day that had spared something that is worth a whole lot more.

If you have a pair of favorite shoes, tell us about them in the comment area of my blog.
I'd love to read about them!


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Birmingham Girl said...

Jacqui - I love this story, thanks for sharing it.

Your post reminds me of one of my favorite photos of all time, Gerald Waller's "New Shoes" taken in Austria, 1946:

I remember seeing this photo for the first time in a Life photo anthology. A tender-hearted high school student, I burst into tears. I still can't get over this picture, truly worth a thousand words - joy, gratitude, youth, war, justice, injustice, more than I can articulate.


Jacqueline Carney said...

Thanks Elif. I love the photo!

Give M a kiss for me!