The sun shines brightly on the green leaves of my beloved Cape Gooseberry bush, given me by my little sister Mandy a horticulturist, from upon her deathbed. As I pluck sticky sweet berries and throw them into my bucket, my thoughts trickle to my memories of her and the gifts she left behind. Her two gorgeous sons for instance. And some beautiful plants. I will make lovely pots of golden fresh Gooseberry jam from my efforts today. I glance at my feet and with a twist of pain I remember the shoes that are swimming on my feet were once leapt into in a hurry by my second son as he dashed off to visit a friend or race down to the service station… probably to sneak a packet of smokes and jamb them into his hip pocket!
These casual loafers are shoes that are oversized upon my feet and I have grabbed them from the shoe rack in order to keep my shoes clean while I garden. Why do I still have them? They have sat at the back door for eight years which is when their owner left this world. I have many times collected them ready to drop them into a nearby bin and see them disappear into the council garbage truck. Yet each time I hesitate as if expecting my handsome son to pop his head around the door to the kitchen and grin at me as he questions my desire to run off with his shoes. Sadly this does not happen.
What if these shoes were to begin a routine of Irish dancing all on their own and delight me with a rendition of River Dance? Would I feel better? If these shoes followed me around the garden, padding across the lawn by themselves leading me to surmise that my unseen son were swatting flies while gardening with me, then would I feel closer to my son than the connection I have developed already which allows me to know when he pops past to say hello?? Since I have not experienced any of these rather exciting events and I doubt that Riverdance would remove my heartachy moments then I have to ask why am I hanging on to these jolly shoes????
I have already had my son’s left behind clothes made into a truly spectacular quilt with the help of a master quilter who insisted on all clothes being cut into 8cm squares. I visualise my boy’s disgusted look complete with rolling eyes at the fact that at least two pairs of boxers have been neatly arranged into this quilt. His school books have long gone to Mission Australia for reuse. Newspaper cuttings and photos have since found a sacred space in our home.
So what is it about a pair of shoes that makes separation so tricky? I continue to muse on my need to have my son’s shoes at the back door where spiders make their home and cat hair floats down attaching to the toes. When is it the right time to remove the belongings of a loved one? Is it today? Is it significant that I carry a bucket of my sister’s berries while wearing my son’s shoes? With a sigh I know it is not. I will think of them both without a bucket and shoes.
It is not rocket science. There is no rule. For years mothers have gold dipped baby shoes and hung paintings by loved ones or placed photos on pianos. Shoes indicate that someone important, loved and worthy once lived in this house. They are a sign that declares Love Lives in This House – Welcome.
I replace the shoes yet again upon the rack when I finish my garden chores and smile my thanks for the use of them to my unseen and beloved teenaged child, now a man somewhere in Heaven. I guess it still isn’t time.
I’m okay with that.