In My Shoes: Shoe basket is powerful reminder of family times

Our younger daughter — the middle child — was married on a warm, beautiful day down by the James River not far from the spot where my wife and I married 27 years earlier on the Annabel Lee.
Before rushing out the back door to head to the venue, I sorted through the shoes in the basket by our back door to grab my flip-flops so I could have comfortable shoes to come home in after the ceremony.
Our family has always kept a basket by the back door to prevent shoes from accumulating all through the house. If heading out the door to a casual outing, in need of shoes to throw in a bag for an overnight trip, or even going out to do yardwork, the shoes you needed likely would be there.
There were times when I wished the basket had never become a fixture and that I thought it was an eyesore. We would hide the basket and its contents during holiday gatherings or special occasions when we had guests over. There also were times when work, athletic or yard shoes would have to be removed from the basket because of odors or just ugliness.
When the basket was unsightly, I wondered why we had ever allowed this to become a habit. Nonetheless, the basket remains. The original basket got chewed by the family cat and had to be replaced. The current one has been cleaned and painted multiple times to make it somewhat presentable.
After the wedding, I came home and kicked off my flip-flops into the basket and noticed something that yanked hard on my heartstrings: The basket was almost empty. You see, even though my older daughter had moved out almost two years ago when she got married, the younger one had been taking up the “shoe slack” since then.
I had never noticed a difference in the basket until that day when my just-married daughter was packed and ready to head to her new home in Florida. I realized quickly the finality of the fact that our home was going to become much more empty and quiet, and that I would see much less of the child moving out of state.
While we still have a son at home whose size 10½ shoes will take up some of the slack, I was struck by the fact that I wasn’t as ready as I thought to have one more child leave. One day later, we said our goodbyes to our daughter and sent her off with tears, best wishes and her shoes.
I’m still trying to get used to the emptiness around the house. The first week was difficult for me and my wife. While we are now focused on getting our son through school and on to his future, the emptiness of the basket reminds me that life has definitely changed.
Still, we really have much to be thankful for in that we have been blessed with three great kids who are making solid life choices.
I guess from now on I’ll be trying to reflect on the full hearts we have, and all of the memories made by all of the shoes that spent time in that basket.

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