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.

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