One of my fondest memories as a young child was going to the farm and Grandma’s house. It was everything your mind conjures up for a Grandma’s house to be – places to be explored, cousins, animals, brown Karo syrup and white bread and, of course, Grandma’s lap.
A very special thing that my Grandma had was a shoe collection. I’m sure Alan would point fingers at my family tree, claiming that’s where I get my obsession with shoes from but I would have to argue. My shoe collection is one that is spread from one door to the next and back around to the basement door. Seriously, if you have to kill a spider, you need a shoe close by. Therefore there is strategy in my seemingly haphazard shoe collection display.
Grandma’s shoe collection had charm and personality and beauty and…well, I can’t even come up with the right word. Now, being an old woman, nostalgic would probably be an appropriate word. As a little girl, I just knew they were bewitching and I loved admiring them and even enjoyed some very limited playing time with them – supervised, of course.
No one is left alive to know what started this collection of my Grandma’s. Like I said, she was a farmer’s wife. She didn’t have a lot of fancy, frilly decor in her house. But this cabinet full of china, spun glass, wooden, clay, plastic and metal shoes was her pride and joy. People in the area would bring her back a shoe whenever they were lucky enough to take a trip somewhere exotic – somewhere off the farm.
When I was a little girl I didn’t know the meaning of the word “covet” but now I know, I coveted those shoes.
Then Grandma passed away. My mother, being the only daughter, was able to lay claim to the shoe collection and brought it into our home to stay. I think my mother understood to some degree what the shoes had meant to her mother because one of the first things she did was purchase a fancier cabinet, one with more shelves and more glass walls. This new cabinet allowed the shoes to be spread out. The glass walls made it easier to see them all from any angle.
And I would stand outside that cabinet and love those shoes. I was in the 5th grade – so about ten years old. Grandma passed away in the winter and when spring came and the walk to school wasn’t complicated with snow and ice, I knew exactly what I was going to take for show and tell: One of the most beautiful spun-glass shoes in the collection. Actually, my show-and-tell ended up being a collection of three spun-glass shoes that I carefully wrapped in tissue paper and packed in a small box that morning. Unbeknownst to my mother.
I made it to school. Stood up in the front of the class and told all my classmates about the shoes. There were a couple of times my teacher asked if my mother knew I had these precious items. “Of course,” I responded, multiple times. Not one of my proudest moments, for sure.
I put the box carefully in my desk and they made it through the day and they were still in their original condition when I headed home. The picture is still fresh in my mind. I see the bit of grass separating the main sidewalk from the curved sidewalk that leads up to the front door of my house. I’m within feet of getting the shoes back in their rightful place.
The next snippet of memory I have is of three spun-glass shoes on the sidewalk. In. Pieces.
I don’t remember falling. I don’t remember dropping them. They were just there. On the ground. Broken.
I took them in the house and got some glue and tried to fix them as best I could. I’m talking that old school amber-colored liquid glue. Then I placed them at the very back of the curio cabinet where all the rest of the shoes were displayed. I’m sure they were discovered. I’m sure I got in trouble but my memories don’t include those unpleasant moments.
Fast forward a bunch of years.
The shoe collection goes to Arizona with my older sister. Somewhere I remember vaguely being told it would be passed down from oldest daughter (my mom) to oldest daughter (my sister) to oldest daughter…. Being the baby of the family, the shoes were gone.
Fast forward a bunch more years.
My husband and I are in a position to drop in on my sister in Arizona. It had been years since we’d seen each other and it was a reunion way past due. Her oldest daughter had just remarried and moved across the country. In the back of my mind, I assumed the shoes had gone with her. As the night wore on and we talked of many subjects, I finally dared broach the subject.
“Do you still have Grandma’s shoe collection or did they go with your daughter?”
“I still have them. None of my girls want them.”
My heart broke for my grandma and her shoe collection and the idea no one wanted them.
“Do you want them?” my sister asked.
“Don’t mess with me! I would love them! Are you sure?” my cheeks were wet with tears of unsurety.
My sister got tissue paper and boxes and we wrapped precious shoes until 2:00am in the morning. I had to empty a cooler to have more room for them. I wanted them padded well.
As we wrapped and cried and talked, I picked up a couple of shoes and heard a rattling coming from inside them. I looked and, again, my heart was torn. There were three Dutch-type shoes and in each of them were the pieces of the shoes I had broken when I sneaked them out for Show & Tell.
My mother had saved the pieces. I’ll never know why for sure. But it hurt that night.
It was like a reminder of all the mistakes I’d made as a child. Even as an adult. I dumped the pieces into the palm of my hand and looked at the pathetic pile of my mistakes and sins and shortcomings and goof-ups. Right there. I tried to wrap my head around all the emotions and parables that were walking around in my head. In broken shoes.
I nagged and yelled at my husband all the way home. Don’t hit any potholes. Watch the corners. Whatever you do, don’t get rear-ended! And the shoe collection made it to my house.
It didn’t take me too long to find another curio cabinet. One that I felt was suitable for these precious shoes.
One night when I was all alone, I carefully unpacked each and every shoe; carefully placing them on the glass shelves. I thought a lot that night. I cried a lot. I prayed.
By the time the night was over, I feel I had a better understanding of Grace.
I am grateful to a loving Father in Heaven who, through the sacrifice of His life, willingly and lovingly stepped in to pay the painful price for my sins. I am grateful to know that instead of brown, temporary LePage’s school glue, my Heavenly Father will replace my broken, shattered “pieces” with his Eternal Peace.
In the meantime, I have added some shoes to my Grandmother’s shoe collection. Eventually, as I find them around, there will be a spun-glass shoe for each of my children and grandchildren.
On the bottom of the shoes is a sticker that says “Grace”.