My Mother’s Shoes

By: Kacey Gill

I’d never noticed her shoes before. They were black patent leather – or at least they used to be patent leather. After all the years of use, they had become dull and faded, losing their shine to sidewalks and streets all over the Cleveland. They were scuffed and battered. Tattered and torn around the edges. The heel was starting to fall off, bit by bit, disconnecting from the rest. They were falling apart, but kept together by some force coming from within the shoes themselves. I couldn’t stop looking at this one pair of shoes. They held so many memories, experiences, and emotions for this woman I call my mother. They were stained with her tears. They were wrinkled with her successes and peeling with her failures. They were her. They were her everything. I looked away from those shoes – breaking my stare as my eyes began to swell. Tears spilling over, I looked back, focusing my eyes on the empty space next to her shoes, the empty space where my father’s shoes should have been. Where my sister’s could have been. Or where my brother’s would have been. When I closed my eyes I could see a pair of sneaker, maybe Nikes or maybe Jordans, sitting in that empty space. I bet they would be blue and white, with black stitching and black laces. I always thought my brother would have liked blue… I looked at the nothing and felt it laced with pain and loss and suffering. All my life, she wore her shoes on her feet. She wore her shoes as my mother, but also, as my father, and sister, and brother, and anything and everything I ever needed. Those worn down, tattered black shoes were larger than I had ever imagined. They had to be. Those shoes had to be large enough to fill the empty space where their shoes should have been. My breathing was labored as I turned away, quickly grabbing my bags and my shoes as I left. Walking out of the door to my boyfriend’s car, I looked back at her shoes and the spot next to them. The spot where mine should have been. An empty spot. Another empty spot.