This is a painting that hangs in my home. My maternal grandmother painted this in 1983, from a photograph that was taken on a trip to the beach when I was a teenager. She was an artist, an art teacher, a sculptor, a porcelain doll maker, a writer, a poet and an all-around, prolific talent. I credit her and my mother with instilling in me the importance of being creative. If you are interested, you can read more about her (and my equally unique grandfather) in these two posts.
An Empty Well and You’re So Handsome I Hope You Never Die
My family lived on Long Island and we would frequently drive to a beach in South Hampton, about an hour from our home and spend the day swimming in the waves, playing in the sand, cooking and eating and getting burned to a crisp. My father would pack every square inch of our station wagon with the vital supplies; a large canopy to block the sun, beach chairs, umbrellas, coolers full of food and drinks, beer and wine, a small charcoal grill to cook on, and plenty of sports balls and Frisbees and water and sand toys.
I don’t specifically remember this particular trip but over the years I have tried to identify who the shoes belonged to. I’m pretty sure the pair third from the right with the red stripes were mine and I think the pair third from the left with the blue stripes were my fathers. I’m guessing the white pair on the left belonged to my mother but I can’t be sure. The rest, I believe belonged to aunts and uncles, a cousin and my two grandmothers, all of whom would have been visiting from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The small pair of pink flip-flops belonged to my cousin who is about ten years younger than me. There has been some debate, over the years, that perhaps one of the pairs of shoes belonged to a girlfriend of mine at the time, but in counting them up, I now believe it was all family on this particular trip. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
We have several of my grandmother’s paintings in our house and on most days, this painting is just another backdrop in our home. But in retrospect, when I really consider it’s meaning, it brings back a flood of memories. Even more so than many photographs. It suggests a time when I filled my shoes with much different hopes and dreams and goals than I do now. Not necessarily better or worse, just different, younger, freer and with much less responsibility to be concerned with. It’s also reminds me that three of these people, my mother and my two grandmother’s are no longer with us.
But new shoes have filled those spots in my life. These days if you painted a picture of my family’s shoes at a trip to Lake Michigan it would likely look very similar to my grandmother’s painting from 1983, filled with sneakers and flip-flops and sandals. On other days that painting might include cleats or dress shoes or barn boots or running shoes. In just over six years from now when my two kids have gone away to college, the painting will be just of my wife’s and my shoes. If we are lucky though, someday after that, we can add some grand-kid’s shoes.
There is always a large pile of shoes gracing the entry way to our house, a pile which varies in size and variety depending on the season. It’s an easy thing to gripe about.
But there’s also a comfort in tripping over it every day.
Because it tells me, that even though life is never easy, there is still plenty of walking and perhaps even running to do and so far, we seem to be headed in the right direction.
Oh… and by the way, this was my 200th post! Thanks for reading!