It Always Comes Back to the Shoes

Photo by Sam on

Last week I was all about Ice Cream Theology, living in the moment, enjoying the sweetness of life.

Well, that melted.

This week I’m fretting (occasionally) over the footprint I’ll be leaving on my children’s mental health after they’re forced to sift through my clutter when I’ve lost the race and I’m six feet under.

I blame my Mom.

I realize this is extremely cliche and irrational. Here’s the deal, my Mom’s house was so organized, even her bras were folded, socks matched, glassware arranged by size and usage, her shoes were lined up in the closet as if a marching band, the sheets in her linen closet were color coded for goodness sake. There was not a single piece of paper laying around that wasn’t filed, tagged, paper clipped, or neatly stacked in a basket.

Okay, there were some taxes she forgot to pay, but she was going through some intense treatmentst at the time, and we were able to rectify that issue quite easily.

It turns out the government is a bureaucracy and will always take your money.

Much like my closet, a ruthless establishment, which takes everything I confer to it’s cavernous structure, and double taxes me with guilt and shame.

I kid you not.

How is it possible that I thought a see through butter-yellow blouse would suit me? Or that polka dot dress which barely covers my ass? The tube tops, the short shorts, the pencil skirts that will never be worn again. I cringe at the row of oversized blouses, it was a stage, thankfully one I was booed off.

The shoes are problematic. They are hard to get around. You can’t see but I assume you can use your imagination. I walked the trails of Yosemite in this pair of worn hiking boots, danced at my daughter’s wedding in these delicate gold heels, and you’ll have to trust me, but I look pretty damn stylish in my prized leopard pumps. There are scratched-up cowboy boots from my Urban Cowboy phase, sandals that carry sand from beaches afar, and tennis shoes in various stages of disrepair. The thing about shoes is the memories are so poignant I can slip into them and actually travel back in time.

My children will inherit these shoes without the stories as if Cinderella with one glass slipper and no prince charming to carry her off to her happily ever after, away from the ashes of life, and a cheeseparing stepmother. As Victoria Van Tiem says, just like Cinderella, it always comes back to the shoes.

I stifle a laugh.

Why is it so hard for me to let things go? I should call Kelley, she’s a Kondo kick-ass, I could pay for her to come out? It wouldn’t take more than six months and besides Tim knows how to cook. He’ll be fine.

Touching the silky material of the dresses I wore to the girls’ weddings, enshrined in plastic covers, along with my own wedding dress stuffed on the shelf in a large white box. I have wedding albums that go back three generations stacked in the back of the closet. What in the world will the kids do with them?

It’s daunting. Do I squeeze the memories out of them as if lemons and then toss them in the Goodwill pile, the compost barrel of life?

The problem is there are bits and pieces of myself hiding all over this house.

Glancing around the room I notice the small paintings stashed in the bookshelf from sidewalk artists depicting the places we’ve traveled, or that ceramic vase we picked up in Duruta during a rainstorm, the porcelain lady from Madrid where we celebrated Martica’s twenty-first birthday with Marta and Ken, and the little red gelato dishes I purchased from a local antique shop while shopping with Vicky and Nancy. These are the memories I silently hope will not vanish as I age.

Walking back to my computer with a fresh cup of coffee I pick up my grandfather’s pipe that sits on a shelf in the hall. If I close my eyes and smell the residue of tobacco, I’m actually transported to the parlor of their home on Sixth Street, in San Jose, across from the elementary school. It was the only place grandpa was allowed to smoke. I’d sit with him, me on the floor, he on the settee, and I’d watch the way the smoke swirled in the air with each exhalation. He wasn’t a talker, we’d just sit together, in silence.

I hope everyone has a memory as sweet as this.

There are stacks of letters my students wrote to themselves that I send back to them in five-year increments that live on the shelves next to my bed.

The kids will think I’m crazy and what a stretch that will be?

The truth is I’ve found my home to be a holier place than Church, it’s the intimacy of our routines, as if a form of prayer. The ritual of breaking bread with family and friends. The blessing of creating a life from the embers of our love. Within these very walls, we learned how to be grateful, kind, and compassionate, but most importantly we learned how to forgive. We don’t give up on each other, we’ve mastered resilience, and from the moors of home, we go out into the world securely attached to who and what we are.


Interestingly enough, well of interest to me, as I’m writing this essay a notice comes in on my phone. It’s from the family Slack Channel where we engage in private communication (you have to be born an Oreglia or married to one of my children to get access to the password) about what we’re doing, what we’re reading, Coronavirus information, upcoming family dinners, investments, subscriptions, politics (a popular channel), random, Tony’s next visit, images of the grandchildren, and a few travel albums.

It’s a great way to stay connected when we’re spread out all over the world or across the street as in Julie’s case.

So Julie posted an article in the “General” file and she introduces the article by asking “Is Mom hampering our independence?” Well, that got my attention. The attached article explores how tracking devices parents use to keep tabs on their children’s safety can hamper young adult’s ability to mature.


I’ve never heard of this Life360 but I can find all my children (except Tony who refuses to use an iPhone) at any given time night or day by using the friend finder on their iPhones. One time I noticed Dante was located at a jail in Orange County. I panicked and starting calling, texting, face timing him until he responded. It’s the least I can do. He was installing solar panels at the jail. He was working. It’s his job. Sorry, not sorry.

Am I hampering their independence? Absolutely not, they stalk me just as much. “Hey Mom, I notice you’re driving by the Safeway, can you pick up some…” Or Kelley texts me and complains, “you’ve been with Julie all day.”

And here I sit trying to think of ways in which I can make my passing easier on them? Well hell, no one will be tracking them any longer, it’ll be more like a haunting, similar but not the same.

I’m just going to delight in the pieces of me I find hiding all over the house, because it’s too daunting to consider dismantling all the props I spent years putting into place, knowing wherever my eye lands the image “sparks joy.”

As Selena Gomez warns, never look back. If Cinderella had looked back and picked up the shoe she would have never found her prince.

It seems ingenuous but I don’t want to spend the remainder of my time ridding my home of evidence of me. I’m not a white board you can wipe clean at the end of the day, the marks of living are indelible, permanent, never to be erased.

So lets’s stick with the epithet that they’ll be “charmed” to find my fashion faux pas, teaching tasks, family memorabilia, and all my disordered clutter will make them appreciate their well-ordered lives and that will be my last gift to them. Gratitude.

I love it.

It is destructive to live in the future, to bypass the present moment, to lose track of your kids, or fail to notice the smoke currently swirling in the air. The utter silence of being at peace with where you are sitting, cross-legged on the settee, leopard pumps dangling from your polished toes.

I’m Living in the Gap, thinking of way to hamper my children’s independence, care to join me?

Additionally (means it didn’t make the cut):

I was listening to a podcast on the way up to the lake a few weeks ago on how the military trains the brains of their commanders to work under duress. I sort of wish Larry were here to fill in the details on the program but he’s biking this morning which affords me the time to write. So the details will remain sketchy.

I even made a small notation in my “things to write about” notebook but so like me, I only captured the big picture, and left out the details.

The woman being interviewed was some high-ranking person in the military, not sure about her title, but she was in charge of a mission. Her mission was slightly more dangerous than my mission to declutter the house but there are similarities.

Try and keep your smirking to a minimum. Thank you.

The military prepares its people to perform sort of like we prepare our students for a fire, earthquake, or shooter on campus. It’s a very methodical way to form muscle or brain memory. The idea is that you can teach the brain to calm down and think even when you are physically in pain, sleep-deprived, and under attack. They kept this poor girl awake for like a week with lights and loud noises, she had to perform grueling calisthenics all hours of the day and night, and she was constantly being yelled at in a derogatory manner.

So when this exhausted, totally stressed-out, abused person was put in charge of a mission, she decided to make lists.

It calmed her down, she could check things off, and even when it seemed she wasn’t getting things done fast enough the more checks the calmer she felt.

Okay I’m not exactly sleep-deprived but I am post-menopausal, I have physical ailments from riding my stationary bike, and it’s always hectic around here. The thing is I can make lists, and I’m a huge fan of checking things off my lists, and therefore it’s indisputable, I would make a great general.

And who doesn’t love the idea of being saluted by their husband as he passes you in the hall?


Leave a Comment

  1. I’m sure that my lifetime hoard of ‘treasures’ will be unceremoniously dumped into a skip when I am gone. No problem, they only meant anything to me, anyway.
    What is is about some women, and shoes? Imelda Marcos comes to mind.
    Oh, and that’s why I will never have an i-phone. I never go anywhere, but that’s not the point…
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know when my parents passed away many of their treasures were dropped off at the Goodwill and I remember wondering about the stories behind the things we were leaving behind. It’s true though, most of our treasures are only meaningful to us because we associate them with a memory. A memory the kids do not share and so it makes sense for them to pass along the trinkets we’ve been dusting for thirty years. Men never understand the shoe thing, the right shoes can make or break an outfit, and for whatever reason they harbor some of my most potent memories. Now if you had an iPhone Pete your followers could track you and Ollie on your adventures! Oh what fun that would be! Warmly, C

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Cheryl, just let your kids wonder later why mom kept this or that? Give them a few things to talk about after you are gone – a racy teddy or those leopard spotted shoes. Better yet, leave additional sensational items paired together to really get them going – a shade of lipstick you never wore with a cocktail napkin or matches from a bar.

    My wife and I were talking about the premise of the movie “The Bridges of Madison Country” the other day. The kids found their mother’s diary and learned of a passionate affair she had, but she decided to stay with their father. I never found such sensational items in my mother’s things, but I did learn new things going through her and my father’s stuff. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Keith, oh how I loved your response to this post, leave a few provocative things around to give them something to talk about! Brilliant. Interestingly, my mother, sister, and I all watched “The Bridges of Madison County,” together. We cried when she reaches for the handle of the car door but fails to open it and enter into a new life. We were absolutely absorbed by that movie, it may have been the acting, the scenery, or the subject? I too found nothing sensational in my mother’s belongings but she left little notes stashed in drawers and cupboards with her favorite sayings. We so loved finding these quotes she loved. Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cheryl, I am glad you liked the suggestions and the movie. If you want a treat, get the soundtrack to the movie – Johnny Hartman and Dinah Washington are featured on several songs. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely loved this. It’s your beautiful writing that makes it so poignant. I managed to unload most of my shoes and skinny pencil skirts when I moved from California to Arizona. I do have so many photos and stuff from my former house that filled a closet and dresser in the guest room — plus part of a hallway closet. My goal is to declutter the stuff I moved into boxes and haven’t look at yet by the end of 2021 — or 2022.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Elizabeth, I had to box up most of the house so we could refinish all the floors at the same time (this was months ago) and I’ve yet to empty all the boxes. It’s an arduous task. The last frontier is my closet. I’m avoiding it like the plague if you’ll allow me to use that term. I’m thinking if I haven’t worn something in twenty years it gets probation and I’ll set it free. Be forewarned, there might be some heinous clothing on the loose. Cheers, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love Arizona. But it was hard for me to leave the memories and friends of 30 years. Especially the home where I raised my kids. We moved December 2020 and our development was on COVID lockdown until vaccines. It was a weird time to move. I’m over my homesickness but it took some time. My tips are let yourself settle in and miss your old home. You’ll get over it and enjoy the freedom and the benefits of living in AZ. Explore and enjoy your new surroundings. Where are you moving to?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thanks so much for your reply! We aren’t exactly sure yet, but we will probably move somewhere near Flagstaff. We have some things to wrap up here (CA) before we can leave, so we’re looking to move in Jan or Feb 2022. A lot can change in 6 months, in this world we’re living in, so we can’t speak in complete absolutes yet. But we really like northern AZ. Where did you settle?

          Liked by 2 people

        2. We are on the border of Carefree and Scottsdale. It’s a 30 minute drive to shopping and dining in the main part of Scotsdale. We’re across the street from a conservancy with 130 miles of hiking trails. We do have grocery stores and restaurants two miles away. I love the wildlife and views.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. When my mum went I had to clear her house, and wished she hadn’t accumulated so much stuff! Such a painful nightmare having to go through it all, it took so long. The things I did keep are boxed up in the loft, but I can’t get rid of them, someone else will have to do that when I go. Phil and I have made an agreement to get rid of most of our stuff so we don’t have to put our kids through that, but leave them letters and photos of memories and love instead. And money. 🤣🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Fraggle, my Mom did a good job of weeding out her stuff, I’m getting there, but I have the “can’t let go” disease! And I have it bad. Closets are my downfall, it’s easy to just shut the door, and as if Scarlet, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” As my tomorrows wane I’m trying to get a little more serious! It might require wine. Cheers, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oops. I hit send to early.🤦🏻‍♀️ Anyway, as far as this post goes, I’m of two minds. On the one hand, you don’t want to leave too much for your kids to go through as Fraggle pointed out, but on the other, I love Keith’s suggestion. Due to a difficult relationship with my mother, I have nothing left from my beloved father except for his police badge, and I regret that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love that you read my posts as your snuggling in for the night! That’s delightful. I agree I don’t want to burden the kids…too much, but want them to have something to remember me by. I’m sad you don’t have more from your Dad. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me Kim, means the world to me, hugs, C

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great writing. Tough decisions. Great stories. As a Mom, you are always going to be ‘Mom’, and all that means. Speaking of Moms? I like yours based on her orderliness.

    Larry, “Saluting you” in the Hall? I could almost hear Mr. Roarke Saying “Welcome to Fantasy Island”. Bahahaha!

    P.S., ‘Men’ can be Shoe hoarders too, especially men that golf. I know someone with ten pairs kept in his bedroom (I just counted). And several more back in the garage of the kitchen fire house that is almost ready to re-occupy! But they don’t collect dust in a closet. They come out to play all the time! They are part athletic equipment, part essential fashion accessory, each unique and able to finish off the costume in a suave, sort of Ricky Fowler/Ian Poulter way, not outrageous in a Rodney Dangerfield way, and they were all a bargin sorced new, or EUC from ebay, Posmark, or etsy. . .

    Again, Great proise neighbor! Simply fantastic.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Chris, you crack me up, Fantasy Island indeed! I’m sure you’ve met my Mom a time or two? She was quite orderly but always a friendly smile and loved a good chat! So…shoes hoards come in both sexes! Who knew? Ten pairs for one game? Seems excessive, I should learn, I’d enjoy accessorizing for sure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, always fun, hope there’s a golf game planned for this weekend. Nice to let those shoes out, C


  6. I like when my family member jumps to attention when I enter a room…. You have so many wonderful memories…I don’t think you need the actual things to conjure them….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My crew only jumps to attention when I enter the room laden with a tray of desserts! And then they enjoy redacting my stories with newly revised versions I’m barely able to recognize my own memories….I need my props! Bahaha, I need to go to purging school! Let it go…C

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great article! I appreciate your attachment not to the things but the memories they invoke. Unfortunately, I am not sentimental at all so purging is my thing. My girls better get it now if they want to remember it! LOL I do agree with checklists though! I totally love to mark something “done” on my many lists. I think I would make a great general too, as long as no one was firing back at me!! Haha! Best Wishes, Leigh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Leigh, I wish I had your purging skills, I might make a better sergeant than general. I can always follow orders. I have four kids and together they manage to remember everything wrong but their stories are entertaining! I so enjoy your comments Leigh, warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great read! Over time, our homes do become a sort of sanctuary. A Great Pyramid full of relics, antiquities, and treasures. But few know the value of such things or the memories they stir. Somehow, because I showed some interest in family genealogy, I became the unofficial keeper of the family pictures and stories. I can pass these gems onto my daughter but I fear we are at the end of the line for maintaining such links. So much history will be lost. I think that is a big part of the reason I like to tell stories. I was gifted with many stories and they need to be passed along. Some make us bigger than life, but isn’t that the fun of it all. As I read your post I pictured walking through my home and knowing I could pick up any object and there would be a story attached to it. Keep the flame burning, tell your stories 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Harold, as we just finished our long awaited remodel of the kitchen and dinning room I have been vigilent on what I allow back in the house. It’s forced me to look at my “stuff” from a new perspective. Is this still serving us, or it is just collecting dust? I lean to the “it’s serving me,” side as a default. I have miles to go. I too love telling stories and it is my hope that someday when all my “stuff” is passed along I will be remembered by the stories I’ve posted in this blog. It seems more valuable than the vase from Great, great grandma! Thanks for the comment, much appreciated. Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a wholesome post, Cheryl. It reminded me of my grandfather. Amongst many interesting things that I had found when going through the things he had left behind, the ones that had brought me to tears were the letters I had written to him. Not only had he kept the letters, he had also made copies of them! I miss him so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Aaysid for your kind words, but more importantly for sharing your story about the letters your grandfather saved that you sent him. That is so touching. What an incredibly sweet man to have loved and nurtured you in this life. I miss him too! Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I, too, struggle to throw things away. But with the knowledge that we will, someday, have to move from my husband’s more spacious house in the fens when its maintenance gets too much (the garden is big with two large fishponds and hedges that need trimming and sheds and decking that need preservative.) When we married I was still working in London, and still have a small ground floor maisonette we can move to (no stairs!) but the mere thought of downsizing (again) is concentrating my thinking.
    Your closet in particular sounds familiar (we call them wardrobes over here). I’ve already taken the suits I used to wear for work to charity shops, but how about the clothes I never wear now because we rarely go out to that kind of event. They are still there in case we should sudden’y get such an invitation. Even though they probably don’t fit any more.
    There’s that skirt I loved that might fit again one day if I make a real effort to lose some weight. (It’s just a couple of pounds each year, but it’s like there’s a valve… the weight only foes in one direction.) And those jeans I avoid because they’re getting uncomfortable. And that top I bought in the sale that somehow is never quite right for what I want it to go with…
    Perhaps I should go on a fengh shui course or something.
    And the furniture – the bedroom furniture my youngest daughter and I assembled together when she came back from university to my newly downsized home. Two sets of cutlery, cooking pots, crockery, gadgets, amassed from two family homes our various offspring all have their own now, and there won’t be space for any of it in the maisonnette.
    I’ve had twelve years of squirrelling my possessions between two homes to make them seem less hoarded, but the day is coming when I’ll have to cull.
    and then there’s hubby’s double garage/workshop!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Cathy, thanks so much for your lovely comment. Your situation sounds much like mine, we have a second house up in Lake County where I spread out my belongings so they “seem less hoarded,” and this has been going on for decades. The good news is both houses are single story, no stairs and one has no yard, our base home has a small and doable yard space. I think we’ll be keeping both until I buried under the magnolia tree in the back yard. I plan on detoxing my closet this fall. I’m feeling anxious already as I know it will be taxing on my emotions to pass on all those sentimental outfits that no longer fit or are inappropriate for someone my age. I can do it I just don’t want to! Wishing us both the strength to persevere as we conquer our clutter! Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

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