Monday, August 26, 2019

Twenty-one Pairs of Red Shoes

Twenty-one pairs of Dorothy red shoes grace my old house. They are carefully placed all over the house…in nooks and crannies…on shelves and even a couple are dangling in the window. These red shoes give children great opportunities for exploration, counting, and sneaking around in all the rooms. Last night, at our faculty picnic, was no exception. As the adults picnicked outside the children of Brandy DePriest calculated shoes. Some they tried on, others they admired, but after all was said and done, they only found ten pairs of shoes. Ah, they asked me, where are the shoes. “Hmmm…. somewhere over the rainbow?”

The collecting of shoes began 17 years ago when I moved into this old house. I don’t know how it started, perhaps by my friend and neighbor, Marilyn Doer? The hunt for this house was a long process as I looked at many houses in my search. What did I want? A picket fence…a claw foot bathtub…a lovely neighborhood? It got to the point when I finally realized what I wanted was a house to shout to me when I opened the front door, “Welcome home.” And this house did just that on an early Sunday morning when Randy and Shannon whisked their little ones out of bed so I could see the house. One foot inside the door, and it this house didn’t just shout, it seemed to call to me quietly in whispers too.

Seventeen years ago my friends, Bob and Nancy from Indy, brought their children up to Pokagon for the weekend and ended up at my house for pizza and conversation. It was then the youngest (who is now all grown up) said to me, “I knew you wanted a house so I drew a picture and told Santa all about you. That is how you got the house.” Bob and Nancy both nodded. Indeed, Mary asked for my house that year and nothing for herself. She went on to say, “This is the house I drew and now you have it.” I was amazed and thanked her for the Santa wish. She then said, “You know, technically, this is my house. I should have it when you die.” Lots of laughter followed as we all looked at little, sweet Mary wishing for my house.

Talking with Abe this week, the subject of “home” actually came up in the conversation. I told him I was one of the lucky ones who found home. I know who I am and have chosen this home carefully…not by luck. I could while away the hours in this purple house, but there is family to visit, research to conduct, stories to tell…

In the book, Geography of Home, Akiko Busch says, “And I would argue that in our increasingly pluralistic, and often chaotic world, finding this sense of fit is ever more important. It may be as simple as the graceful coexistence of technology and nostalgia.” Yes, I agree.

Years ago I wrote this poem about who I am. I recently added the last line. And may I ask, who are you?

I am from coalmines,
Deep dark under the ground
With blood shot eyes peering out at the end of each day.
“I am from the still in the back yard where great-
Grandpa shot the sheriff, back in those
Woods owned by the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.
The stories we aren’t allowed to tell.

I am from stewed tomatoes and white bread eaten over
scuffed up linoleum floors and black and white photos crookedly hung over walls.
I am from Amazing Grace and altar calls…sometimes going up to the preacher just to get the service over so we could all go home to pot roast.
I am from lavender sachets and fur collars as we sat together on the bus heading downtown to tea or to window shop for pearls and white gloves.
I am from the stern look of keeping my knees together while my voice could belt out the show tunes of Rogers and Hammerstein.
Under my bed was a dress box from Wolf and Dessaur’s spilling theatre and Dance tickets.
School pictures.
Dried prom corsages.
College entrance exam scores that took me on a whole new road.
The road that took me away forever except for the moments when I return to kneel before the casket to say goodbye.

I am from the purple house with a white picket fence and twenty-one pairs of red shoes announcing,
 “There is no place like home.”

*First published in KPC August 2019.