repost: the shoemaker

Author: angiem, 03 01st, 2010

Across the street from us, in a lime plastered, ivy-covered house, lived the shoemaker and his wife. As children, we loved to play in their rose filled garden, or sit with him at his workbench, eating bowls of stew with homemade crusty bread, and watching him cut the myriad colored leather for the shoes ordered. His wife always had gold foil wrapped chocolates for us, in the many pockets of her apron.

They were old and stooped. The only child they had ever had, long dead of some childhood ailment. Children had a tendency to die back then, the old shoemaker used to say, his eyes filling with tears. And because I cried easily as a child, I would tear up alongside him. His wife would hear me crying and come rushing out of the kitchen, scolding the old shoemaker for saddening children with his stories. She would take me in the cool, dark kitchen with her, where she was always pickling or making jams, and give me a blue velvet covered box out of an old walnut armoire, to look through.

It was a treasure box of sorts, with mementos of their child and the trips they had taken while newlyweds. Amidst the smiling photos, train ticket stubs, and christening gown and bonnet, there was also a teddy bear. A small, skinny one with a chewed paw. It bore the importance of having belonged to their baby. Out of respect for the old shoemaker’s tears (or most likely, because I was afraid to touch the plaything of a dead child), I didn’t touch it, although my young fingers craved to.

The ivy-covered house with its fragrant rose garden is no longer there. In its place is an ugly concrete building with shuttered windows. The people within are silent and secretive, and the only time one sees them is when they back their car out of their gated yard.

Yet, the bittersweet memories of childhood remain deeply rooted in my mind. A treasure box of them, that I’m determined to document before old age sets in, and I forget. Colors and textures, and sounds, and sensations. Life lessons learned at a young age.


33 Responses to “repost: the shoemaker”

  1. Susu Paris Chic Says:

    Things and places change. I see that so vividly when I return back to the country where I spent my childhood. Memories remain though and they can keep warming the heart for a long while.

  2. julie Says:

    Another lovely story Angie.. reminding us all of our hidden memories so full of depth once someone like yourself triggers them back into reality .. Have a great week xx Julie

  3. Beth Says:

    While in my present manic mode of de-cluttering, I pause over certain items. Without the object to evoke memory, will I lose that memory?
    Perhaps I should write it all down as I go.

    (Lovely story.)

  4. deb @ talk at the table Says:

    And please post them here, for us to savour, your gold wrapped treasures for us.

  5. willow Says:

    Delicious memories.

  6. Cindy L. Says:

    Beautiful … reminds me of a fairy tale, of a story within a story. Can’t wait to read more of your treasures, Angie!

  7. Jennifer Says:

    This story has a very fairy-tale like feeling, from the first sentence ” . . . lived a shoemaker and his wife.” to the fact that they house where they lived is no longer there. Very beautifully told, and bittersweet.

  8. angiem Says:

    Susa, isn’t that right, though? I hate that some things change.

    Thank you, Julie. I had such a delightful childhood.

    It could be so, Beth. The mind is a funny thing.

    Deb, thank you for that. I feel that they are gold wrapped.

    Willow - Oh yes. They certainly are delicious.

    Cindy, these two people were so loved by all the children on our street. Their faces will always be etched in my memories.

    Oh Jennifer, if you should see the house that stands in its place now… It’s horrendous!

  9. cathi Says:

    Intriguing story! :)

  10. Kristin Says:

    I was totally transported. What a beautifully written post!

  11. pamela Says:

    Such a lovely memory. Yes, you must write these down!
    There was an old couple living across the street from us when I was a child as well. A large white house with a wrap-around porch… to my little mind then, it was huge and so mysterious. No children there, always cool and dark inside, with shiny wood floors and floral fabrics. I was always on my best behaviour there.

  12. audrey Says:

    Angie your story makes me want to keep a box of momentos. i think i might.

    it really is a lovely and touching story, and such a pleasure to read!!

  13. Vanessa Says:

    Ahhhh….I always love these posts from you. As mentioned in other comments, it’s so often like walking into a fairy tale. It’s such a nice trip away from the “everyday”. Thank you, Angie. I often think I need to record memories before they are replaced by the mists of time in my mind.

  14. Francesca Says:

    The grief of any parent for a lost child is timeless. No concrete building will change that.

  15. angiem Says:

    Cathi - Thank you.

    Kristin - Thanks!

    Pamela, how lovely your childhood neighbors’ home sounds. I believe those places tested our little manners and how good a job our mothers did, didn’t they?

    Audrey, I think that would be such a beautiful idea.

    Yes, I agree, Vanessa. Our minds tend to forget the joys of our childhood.

    Francesca - I know this is true.

  16. Stephanie Faris Says:

    So beautifully written.

    This story reminded me of the story in the movie Up. They go through an entire couple’s life together in just a short period of the movie and it’s kind of sad…watching life pass by like that. One day you’re newlyweds, the next…you’re barely getting around. Where does time go?

  17. Karen@SurvivingMotherhood Says:

    I’m determined to document them…before I forget.
    I used to think I would never forget the really important things. Old age has not yet set in (Not that I’ll admit to it when it does. *grin*) but I find that I have forgotten so many moments.
    Yet every now and then someone says or does something which causes me to “remember when” and I feel as though God has just given me a gift.

  18. Jessica Says:

    Wow, Angie. That was so beautiful and sad. I’m so thankful I live in a time of doctors, technology and affluence. I can’t imagine my children dying. I think that’s the most horrible thing to think about when it comes to my kids.
    This was written in such a great way.

  19. Susan R. Mills Says:

    I enjoy your stories so much. Keep them coming.

  20. adrienne Says:

    i read your posts, and i feel i’ve stepped into another time.

    shoemakers? aprons filled with chocolates and treasure boxes inhabited by the ghost of a teddy bear?

    so beautiful, angie. so very beautiful.

  21. mrsbear Says:

    What rich and vivid memories. Sounds like the tip of the iceberg though. Dig through all of them, put them to words, you are more than capable.

  22. French Fancy Says:

    Angie - this is such a lovely blog. You cover everything from tender bitter sweet memories such as this right to the pictures of you and your gorgeous family.

    This blog is a memory box and one which I hope future generations of yours will treasure


  23. Janna Qualman Says:

    So beautiful, Angie. I love you way you depict each aspect of your stories. You take me back, though I was never there.

  24. Anya Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this beautiful post -what a wonderful memory you have of the shoemaker and his wife - in such a detail, with such love…Sweet and very sad at the same time. One of the most beautful posts I have read in a very long time. Thank you.

  25. rochambeau Says:

    Dear Angie,
    What a lucky girl you were to have this wonderful couple in your live. Giving you love and appreciation and kindness.
    They are part of the reason you turned out to be the lovely woman you are! ;-)
    I love to read your writing.
    It ALWAYS hits a cord.

  26. Jena Says:

    I can’t say this enough, I LOVE your stories! For me they are treasures. You are a treasure! Share more please.

  27. She Writes Says:

    The older I get the more I want to write down my stories so I never forget. It holds those I knew alive when they are long gone.

  28. Mary Moon Says:

    This sounds like a fairy-tale but isn’t that what childhood is about? So much is unknowable then, so much is magical. You wrote this beautifully and gave us a blue velvet box.

  29. SJ Says:

    Angie, your writing is so vivid and colorful–I love it. I love hearing about others’ childhoods….there’s always a magical element that is brought to it.

    Thank you for all the sweet encouragement on my blog–it means more than you know!

  30. Susan Says:


    All these stories enable us to reflect the way life was and how it is now. You have described the process of memory and the present so well. I wonder where the shoemaker has gone. Have you tried finding out? Did you give your shoes to him to be repaired?

    I liked the picture.

    Angie, I am glad that I heeded Jeanne’s words and came by.

    Joy always,

  31. angiem Says:

    Stephanie F. - I wish I knew.

    Karen - I feel so too. Ever so often, I read something on a blog and I remember things I had thought were forgotten.

    Thank you, Jessica. Neither can I.

    Susan - Thank you. :)

    Adrienne - Thank you. Childhood is magical.

    Mrsbear , Julie (French Fancy), Janna, Anya, Constance, and Jena - Thanks for the vote of confidence. You are sweet and your encouragement means a lot.

    Amy - It’s true. It does.

    Ms. Moon - I had a magical childhood and hope to give one to my kids too.

    SJ - Me too. Love hearing about the childhood of others.

    Susan - He died over 15 years ago. Both he and his wife lived well into their eighties.

  32. elizabeth Says:

    Beautiful, evocative post that left me craving more.

  33. krista Says:

    i’m addicted to your stories.
    that’s the truth.

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