Wearing My Red Shoes to Church

August 28, 2011

I’m sitting on our couch, the curtains on the opened windows pulled to the side as the wind from Hurricane Irene sweeps through our living room.  And I can’t help but think of something someone once said.  It went like this.


My mom’s mom’s name was Irene.  Irene’s normal level of speaking was at yelling decibels, and it did not matter who you were, she had something to say to you.  The day before she died my mom and I took her grocery shopping, and my mom made me stand at the front of the grocery store with her as people formed a line to speak with her.  Everyone knew her name, and she knew everyone.  Even though macular degeneration had taken her sight years earlier, she knew everyone with just one word spoken from them.  And instead of searching for something to speak about, she would launch into minute detail about the littlest thing she had last spoken about with the given person.  That was just grandma Irene.

Grandma passed on many words of wisdom to me.  There is always time for a polka, even in your house dress and slippers in the kitchen.  Warm milk will help you sleep.  (Even though I told her I thought warm milk was gross.)  Never say I do, because after that you just don’t.  (Grandma was happily married from the time she turned 17 until she died, so this bit of wisdom always confused me.)  And when you go to church, always put on your red shoes.

Grandma’s favorite color was red.  She had red purses, red dresses, red coats, and especially red shoes.  And she went to church every Sunday and many times in between Sundays.  For her church was not something that was optional or something that it took study and thinking in which to believe and embrace.  Church just happened, and you wore your red shoes there.

So I’m thinking of Grandma Irene as she sends her hurricane hurtling through New England today, because I’m getting married in a month.  My many memories of her are melding together in my mind like the winds of the hurricane move pieces of the world about in its swirling vortex.  As I start a life with my to be and form our own family, I try to remember all that she said, all that she taught me.

And the thing that I remember most is her voice.

It’s a funny thing to remember, but she had a Pennsylvania accent that made her words become stricken with random R’s.  She would talk and laugh and shout and laugh, and people actually lined up to speak with her.  How full of life can one person be to have people lining up to speak with you?  At her funeral, the cousins and I were all sitting on one of the creepily clean sofas in the viewing room looking at Grandma’s body in the casket, and we all remarked on how strange she looked with her mouth shut.  But it was the times that she would yell at her husband that has me remembering her voice now.

“Chuck!” she would yell, and I wondered how many times Grandpap had heard her yell for him.  All those years of Grandma Irene swirling about him like a hurricane.  So one month before my wedding, I’m thinking of Irene and Chuck as her hurricane moves once more in my life.

And I smile knowing I will be wearing red shoes when I marry my to be because Grandma Irene told me to always wear red shoes to church.

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