The topic of Rebecca’s shoes came up in my earliest writings after she died. I was actually surprised by how sacred they became to me and how demonstrative they became of her life’s journey. One thing I knew: I could not throw them away. I photographed them, drew pictures of them and wrote about them. But for 18 years they remained haphazardly packed in plastic bins in the attic.
From the beginning of my grief, I used art to express feelings and transform objects into memories. Last fall, those shoes were calling to me again. When I opened the first box of shoes I was actually glad to see that many of them were falling apart. So much easier to part with them when they are like that.
Still, before I could let them go, I decided to make little clay miniature versions of the shoes. The process actually turned out to be easier than I expected. I drew an outline of the sole of each shoe, then scaled it down to a 4×6 print. From that, I made a clay sole—then worked from there. It was a joyful project and I was pleased as each little shoe took form.
But I want to emphasize how many years some of these little steps can take. When I packed those shoes away, I never thought I could open that box without sinking back into that deep sadness of 1996.
The miniature shoes are made from earthenware clay, fired once, then painted with acrylic paints. They warm my heart to see them and I was able to throw away the old rotting shoes. I can keep these little miniature reminders.
I call it “downsizing.”
The real shoes, beside clay miniatures (above and at bottom)
Clay shoes with a 12” ruler to show scale (above)
An earlier story of Rebecca’s Shoes is included in Farther Along: The Writing Journey of Thirteen Bereaved Mothers.