Because Life can only be lived a moment at a time.

Full Circle

I can’t remember to whom the shoe belonged.
The white ankle boot, size 4E, presides over my dresser.   The sole has a few miles (or yards) on it but is in passable condition.  When I study the leather upper I see the path of a shoe polish bottle’s foam tip---I can still picture Mr. Pettit carefully erasing days of wear, the shoe perched on the tips of his fingers.    “Stride Rite” is barely visible on the insole, almost worn away by a small perpetual motion machine. 

Even the story of how this piece of footwear came to rest on my dresser is unclear to me now.  I recall coming across it as I sorted through our sons’ things, probably after a move.  We moved ten times during Mr. Pettit’s Air Force career and each new home seemed to demand sorting and organizing, giving away and throwing out.   

Maybe I tossed the little boot’s companion or perhaps it was lost in an earlier move.  All I can remember is a sudden impulse to set apart this bit of my boys’ ancient history.  And so it sits in a place of honor, next to the jewelry box my husband bought during a deployment in England and the comb and mirror Daddy gave me after a business trip to Puerto Rico.  It’s my life told by a succession of things:  Daughter to wife to mother. 

It used to bother me that I didn’t know if the shoe belonged to Older or Younger Son.  But now I’m glad its ownership is uncertain, for it represents all the steps taken by my little boys.  Like that moment when crawling and standing aren’t good enough and our round-faced child resembles Frankenstein’s Creature, fresh off the scientist’s operating table:  Foot up, wait for it, wait for it, foot down.  The foot is down and he is still up!  Let’s see if he can do it again:  Other foot is up, wait, yes, that foot is on the floor!  Quick, write it on the baby calendar:  First steps. 

Of course, we soon learned that a baby on the move is akin to a monkey on the loose.  No object is uninteresting to a young human and the more dangerous the better.  Mr. Pettit and I became a Secret Service detail of two, sweeping each new location for possible threats.  Brick hearth and a rectangular coffee table at nine o’clock.  Open electrical outlet at your six.  Uh-oh, check out the crystal vase on the end table.  We‘ve got a situation here…
Regrets sneak up and clobber me occasionally, but I don’t spend much time looking over my shoulder.  We have photo albums (remember them?) lined up on our bookshelves, filled with pictures of each son’s first moments:  First bath, first Christmas, first haircut, first day of kindergarten.  I’m glad we have these illustrated histories, but I’ve learned that if I linger with these shadows I start to pine for my little boys, and they are long gone. 

I’m floating down a river, carried forward by the current.  Since I can’t reverse course I might as well enjoy the scenery around me.   I put the little shoe back in its usual spot atop a craft-stick box.   I’m grateful for the little boy who wore it (whether it was Older or Younger Son) and for the good man who took his place.  I’m grateful for the moments represented by the shoe, the jewelry box and the comb and mirror. 

And I'm grateful for the gift of hope, as I wonder what will be added to my dresser display in the months and years to come.  For this summer I’ll take on a new role:  Grandmother.

Lost at Sea

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