After my Grandpa M's funeral, my family gathered at his house to go through some things. I took quantities of pictures that weekend and while at his house I found shoes lying in different places and photographed them.
My Grandfather was in the habit of sending out weekly memory letters (via email). His letters covered various memory topics of interest to him or requested by a family member. I have in a folder approximately 65 letters memory letters from him although a few of them weren't official letters but were ones that were meaningful to me or transcribed from his pre-email days. He also sent out a daily gnus letter (via email). Sometimes the letter was simply about what he planned to eat that day and what the weather was like. Sometimes it was more. The letters drew the family together and caused all sorts of conversations. Including a very long -running joke about squirrels. If I remember correctly, the print out I made of the entire gag was nearly thirty pages of silliness from all members of the family - from every generation.
After Grandpa died my family ganged up on my Uncle P (UP of My Tippy) and asked him to take over the emails. Below the photos is one of his first emails.
While looking at Me’s pictures of Grandpa’s shoes, I began to think about empty shoes. Are shoes ever really empty? I don’t know the answer to that question; however, I do know that both Grandpa’s and Grandma’s shoes have influenced each of us.
I have vague memories of D and me dressing up in Grandpa’s and Grandma’s old clothes and wearing their old shoes. I remember the younger sisters doing the same thing in Kansas. P and I have pictures of our children trying our shoes on; they would often be on the wrong feet.
One of the things I like about old shoes is that Grandpa and Grandma bought them as new shoes and wore them until they became old shoes. They wore these shoes to walk many of the same pathways of life that we have now also walked. Mom or Dad would put on a pair of old shoes to go out to the back yard to feed the dog (whichever one we had at the time), or to go out to the immense garden to plant, water, weed, or pick vegetables. Sometimes it would be just to go for a walk around the church parking lot.
Then there are their old shoes that they would clean and polish on a Saturday afternoon, in order to have presentable shoes to wear to church on Sunday. These same shoes may have been used when attending a ladies aid, teaching Sunday school, or leading Wednesday Night Young Peoples’ Society. On a sunny Sunday morning, the seven of us would be dressed for church, wearing our clean and polished shoes, waiting in the living room. Mom would come in, often from the kitchen where she had just placed the roast and potatoes in the oven. Finally Dad would come from the study. We would then be given money for the collection plate, and all in a row would walk out the front door across the church parking lot to the church. The memories of our family spiritual life live on through old shoes.
I wonder did our folks have shoes for relaxation? By this I mean the shoes one would put on some cold winter day when all seven of us were home from school. These I would call the shoes of sanity. As I look at the pictures of Allison, Iowa and L, Kansas, I think about the size of our family and the size of the house. I am certain that both Mom and Dad needed a place for some quiet. Dad could always (and I imagine he did) hide in the study. Dad always had his seed catalogs to read through and plan his next garden. I seem to remember Dad telling us “OUT, OUT!” When we lived in L, I remember Mom sitting in the living room and playing the piano. I also remember her spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and baking. If Mom was in the kitchen and one of us kids would come in, she would smile and say she was so glad for our company. The very next moment she would ask us to help wash the dishes (at which point I would make my exit.) I often wonder if Mom did this because she knew it was a good way to get some alone time.
Me’s pictures brought to mind recollections of Grandma’s and Grandpa’s lives, from the times of work and leisure, special occasions and simple day-to-day life. The shoes of our family keep memories alive.
My Uncle P and my cousin K