the shoe on the other foot

The Shoe (2)

There are lots of stories that center around shoes. Cinderella is probably the most famous. But you’ve also got “The Shoemaker and the Elves,” the “Red Shoes” by Hans Christian Anderson, in addition to the holiday song, “The Christmas Shoes.” So, I think we can agree there is a tradition of shoes and stories that go back a long way. Including my own family’s strange and wonderful holiday shoe tradition.
This story begins in 1972. Once upon a time there was a kindergarten teacher who was adored by her young students. And that Christmas of them picked out the perfect present for his teacher: a gold-Lemay, macaroni covered high-heeled shoe. Pretty awesome really, that his mom let him select, wrap and offer this gift. (My own kids have had some pretty out-there ideas about gift-giving and in light of this you really have to think about honoring them.)
So, my Aunt, the kindergarten teacher opened this lovely gift and it doesn’t take much to imagine the look on her face. My Aunt’s sister, also a teacher in the classroom, thought the whole thing was pretty funny. Isn’t there some saying about she who laughs last… because the next year, guess what was waiting for her under the tree… Oh, yes, The Shoe, the gift that keeps on giving. And their other sister (my own mom) must have giggled just a bit too much because under her tree the next year… The Shoe.
There are lots of seasonal traditions that we love and look forward to: baking cookies, decorating the tree, enacting the Nativity. Then there is the seasonal tradition of gifting The Shoe, the tradition we all sort of look forward to and dread at the same time. This year the macaroni-covered stiletto is 41 years old. Rules have evolved in those years – the Shoe must be proudly displayed in the home of whomever has it. No hiding that baby in a corner. The Shoe has traveled as far as Florida and once even held the bouquet as a family bride walked down the aisle. I’m sure the florist must have said, “You want me to arrange your flowers in what?” But it sure was a sight and certainly the stuff family legends are so made of!
Years ago, that 5 year old kindergarten student gave a gift of love that has become our family symbol of Christmas… give from the heart. It embodies everything my family is… fun, odd, genuine, a little tacky, but filled so much love not even the shoe can hold it.


The Other Kind of Mouse (eeek!)

We have 2 cats. One is Birdie, the other Dorothy. The year Dorothy came to live with us, Moira was 5 and dressed up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. I was almost 9 months pregnant, when on October 30 a small, black cat sauntered in from the cold dark and curled up in a pink princess chair in our living room. Dorothy has been living with us ever since that night 4 years ago. And Birdie, named after our aunt Bird, came shortly after from the ASPCA. But, I digress.
It was just after midnight a couple nights ago that Birdie began her throaty, trilling, meow that signals, “Hey, look what I’ve got!” I peered out from under the covers and saw her sitting beside me with a mouse in her mouth. Of course I very calmly called to my husband to please wake up and take care of the situation. Okay, really I yelled, “Scott, wake up! Help! Get the mouse!”
Either way, my wonderful, brave husband sleepily crawled out of bed, rolling his eyes and mumbling under his breath. I ducked back under the covers and closed my eyes till it was over. Thank you, babe, for being the mouse cleaner-upper in the family.
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My Mouse

When she was little and would nurse and fall asleep in my arms, she made all these lovely, squeaky, mewing sounds.  She was so tiny and fragile and because we initially had to feed her with a syringe, she sort of reminded me of a baby kitten or a mouse.  She was our first, she was the one I was afraid I would break.  With Sam I was more relaxed, and he was such an easy baby.  And by the time the third comes… hey, whatever!  But with my mouse everything was new and overwhelming.

I look at her now and it is hard to see the rosy-cheeked, chubby little baby in the gangly girl before me. My little mouse has become a young colt, all long legs and shiny hair, her smile big and bright and at times enough to nearly stop my heart. Where did my baby go?

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She is smart and funny and as moody as her mama, which is scary.  She amazes me with her humor and compassion.  The other night as she’s sitting beside me on the couch giving me a foot rub (yes, really) she says,  “Can people really do this for a living?”

“Yes, you can be a massage therapist.”

“Cool.”  Then she giggles.  “But what about being a dance teacher?  Or a veterinarian?”   Her smile grows and her eyes get big and silly.  “I know.  I’ll be a massage therapist for dancing animals!”

Mouse, I love your humor.  I love what a great big sister you are.  I admire how confident you can be, and how sensitive to the feeling of others.  You are truly such an amazing person and we are so blessed to have in our world.  My mouse…

Thanksgiving? Where?

The holiday spirit can be tough to find. Maggie and I got up in the pre-dawn hours Thanksgiving morning.  We got to the bottom of the stairs and I whispered, “Happy Thanksgiving.”

And Maggie replied, “Thanksgiving?  Where?”

I know she is thinking of the balloons and the streamers we always put up in the dining room for birthdays and Mother and Father’s Day.  When the kids come downstairs the first thing they see is the colorful decorations and they get so excited.  So, I sort of understand Maggie’s comment.  And, in some ways, I agree.  In spite of the pumpkins and cornucopia on the table, Thanksgiving can be a tough holiday to find.  Thanksgiving is about feelings of  gratitude and  appreciation.  It can be hard to spot and count our blessings when they aren’t bright and colorful and hanging up right in front of your face.

We spent all day looking for Thanksgiving.  And somehow, in between the typical sibling quarrels and the chaos of a average day, we found it.  We went for a walk by the covered bridge and right there by the waterfall was a bride and groom exchanging vows.  There was a whole decked out wedding party, freezing cold and smiling and sharing the moment of “I do.”  Finding those moments and recognizing them is so essential to gratitude.

Sam and Daddy watched football, the girls and I folded laundry, played cards and tea party and Candyland.  We were together in a quiet, warm house and we were content.  Just before dinner, we got out paper and crayons and we made a Thankful Tree.  And now our blessings are bright colorful and right there in front of us.  See, Maggie, there’s thanksgiving… it was right here all along.

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