As a young boy I wanted one thing from my Grandmother above all else. Not the gene for hereditary baldness. Not the sixth sense that haunted the women of her family. Not the inherent craziness that has forever transgressed on my mother’s side. I wanted her bronzed baby shoe.
From the late 1800’s and extending into the early 1900’s, parents often had the shoes of their babies and infant children bronzed as keepsakes. In the case of my Grandmother, her parents bronzed the pair of shoes she wore when she first learned to walk. She had the right shoe. There was a small hole worn into the sole at the baby toe. I often took up the shoe and admired it. I tried to imagine how and where she walked to develop that hole.
Grandmother left the bronze shoe to me as part of my inheritance.
My grandmother was born in
1902 in Washington
State—descendant from a family that came to the New World on one of the
Mayflower’s sister ships. Grandmother
strolled along boardwalks twirling a parasol.
She knew Prohibition, the Great Depression and World War Two. Into her late seventies, she had long hair
that reached beyond the small of her back.
She did not learn to drive an automobile until into her fifties. While in her sixties, following the demise of
my immediate family, she and my grandfather took in me and two of my sisters
and finished raising us. I was with them
from seventh grade on. During the last
few years of her life, I stopped by Grandmother’s house on my way home from
work every weekday afternoon so we could share a cup of coffee and talk about
our day and world events.
Today, the bronze shoe resides in a hutch in my dining room. I still take the shoe into my hands on occasion. When I close my eyes, I hear my grandmother’s voice. We are drinking a cup of coffee and chatting again. We are bronzed.