My Mother’s Shoes


The genesis of this blog was all about mental catharsis. Readers will bear witness to my purging all types of thoughts right out of my head. I apologize, up front, if I get on a sad streak one week and get just darn silly the next. The blogs will flow as they flow, with minimal self-editing.

A psychologist once told me it was one of the best things you could do after a trauma…sit down and start writing it out. The blog is free, the shrink was $175.00 an hour….so here is my next blog entry.

Aristotle first used the word “catharsis” in his work, Poetics. He thought it applied to what would happen to the actors and audience after a tragic play production. The literal purging of emotion…catharsis.

One of the topics that might become repetitive to this blog is my relationship with my mother. You cannot create a blog about growing up and beyond without talking about your mother. Maternal relationships will abound as this blog also hopes to give birth to a book.

After my mother died, the family gathered at her house, after about two weeks, to divide up her personal property. I was her executor, I know at this point, she won’t mind my breach of attorney/client privilege.

There were no specific bequests in her Will, so we tried to go with conversations she had had with her kids about certain items going to this child or another. No blood was shed, although it was a day in which I felt as if I aged 10 years.

In the end, the house no longer resembled what I thought of as “home base.” The smell lingered though, that mix of Estee Lauder perfume and cornbread that identified Jewel’s domain to me.

I called my mother by her first name, Jewel. My siblings thought it was weird, but it was fine to my mother. She knew that as an adult, I looked at her differently. She was my best buddy and you called your buddies by their first name….she got it. I always thought it was funny to see my older siblings calling someone “mama”…maybe I am weird.

The sun was setting that day as the last truck pulled out of the driveway. We had done the dirty work, hugged and parted. I knew at that moment that Jewel’s seven kids would probably not be in the same room together ever again. That should have added to the grief, but let’s just say, it did not.

The trunk of my car was open and I stood there observing what I had chosen to take out of the house. There were no photographs, no brick-a-brack, and no appliances. There in the trunk sat one pair of white old lady shoes.

You know the type, Easy Spirit SAS lace ups? The shoes were well worn. Upon inspection, a piece of pink gum was stuck under the right one, with one blade of St. Augustine grass from her yard, in turn, stuck to it.

Jewel had called my house two weeks earlier, not feeling well, and asked me to come take her to the hospital. Don’t call an ambulance, she said, “I want you to drive me.” I picked her up and drove her to the ER entrance, she walked into the hospital and never walked out.

I stayed with her for two nights. We watched the 2004 Presidential debate and shared smuggled pizza. At one point, my mother “crashed” as they say, right in front of me. I was shaking her, holding her up, and struggling unsuccessfully to reach the panic button.

The nurse ran into the room, with help following. I asked her later on how she knew I needed her? I couldn’t reach the panic button. The nurse responded, “I could hear you shouting. You were yelling Mama, Mama!”

It seems in that pivotal moment, I called her something I had not uttered in 24 years. I was pleading not for my best friend to stay, but for my mama, my home base.

Her last steps were taken in those old lady shoes. She laced them up that day not knowing it was the last time. I think of that every day as I lace up my own. Carpe diem, right?

A white pair of old lady shoes sit on a shelf in my closet, amongst all of my sneakers…..a reminder of the wealth my mama left to me.

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13 responses to “My Mother’s Shoes

  1. you really got to me with this one,Julya….

  2. oh Julya this one makes me cry.

  3. My prized possession is the green striped ceramic cat with her little kitten by her side that sat in our momma’s house as long as I could remember. When I was young, on the bathroom’s green ceramic tile counter. I always was so puzzled why she kept it all those years. She hated cats. That is one of the million questions I would love to ask my momma. I don’t know why I never asked out loud. You always think there is tomorrow.

  4. Also crying. I understand about the shoes completely. When my grandfather died, my Nana asked me what I would like of his and listed off a number of items. I asked for something he touched everyday – his eye glasses. They were the old fashioned kind, with the wires around the ears. Nana tried to talk me out of them, “Honey, those aren’t worth anything.” “They are to me.” Put them in my right hand desk drawer and didn’t do anything with them. Flash forward twenty years. Now it was my aunt asking me what I would like of my Nana’s. My cousins, who lived closer, had had dibs. I didn’t hesitate – “Her glasses, if no one else has them yet.” Both pairs of glasses are now mounted in a shadow box, hung above my grandparents’ 1929 wedding photo, in my living room. Like you, I feel wealthy beyond measure.

  5. Love this one, I have my dad’s eyeglasses, a watch and his truck. Having bought his truck from my stepmom because I didn’t want anyone else to have it, I still 4 years later can’t throw away the breath mints he had because he didn’t want her to know he had started smoking again.
    Each one of your blogs has made me out right laugh hysterically or pulled at every heart string I have. Continue to enlighten us and really look to have these published and never once think of yourself as ever being a failure. I think you are awesome and have given so much of yourself that Jewel is looking down and has a great big smile and saying “That’s my Julya!”

  6. Stumbled across you on facebook, had no idea what I was getting into! I love your blog and have been catching up, but this one actually made me cry. I lost my dad to cancer last year around this time, he was only 39. I saved his leather jacket and wear it almost every day. It’s starting to look a bit silly, (he was about 125lbs and 6’2″ and i’m almost 250) but i stopped caring a long time ago.
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. It’s made me smile more times than I can count, and boy, i needed that today.

  7. darlene keks

    your blog touched me so—my mom is in a care home now and not doing well—when we cleaned her place out—i took all her cookie jars, her silverware which she bought when she was 19 and all her photos—seems i asm the only sibling out of 3 who cared—although i do not call my mom by her first name—she has been my best friend always and always has been there for me—happy mother’s day to all moms

  8. OK…wow..that was too much for my currently overly-sensitive self.

    How beautiful. I understand completely why the shoes were all you wanted. I’m glad you have memories too; they’re the most valuable thing ever left to any loved one.

    Here’s to your mom’s memory. ❤

  9. Wow…powerful…and just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever read. I have my mom’s last pair of shoes in my closet…they’re white Ralph Lauren tennis shoes…God, I miss that woman.

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