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A Walk in Someone Else's Shoes

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells his daughter Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”

This weekend, I visited my mother and we went through the treasures in her closet. She's kept shoes and dresses that belonged to her parents. My grandmother's hand embroidered and crochet pieces are beautiful and delicate, but it is the shoes that interested me most of all.

My mother kept her father's shoes, circa 1958. The leather is still stiff, the sole somewhat worn, the nails and stitching all intact. The bottom of the rubber heel still reads "Pirelli." Yes, as in the tires.

My mom deduced that these were his Sunday shoes, worn only to church, most likely. He would have owned these, possibly another pair he wore casually, and perhaps a work shoe.

What did I do with a not-so-old pair of shoes? I walked in them. They were big, but not so big that they slipped off. I got a feel for how the felt. They made a clicking sound as the metal tip underneath the toes touched the wood floor.

I imagined this man, in his Sunday best, walking to church in these shoes. Proud, dignified and hopeful. I imagined him travelling from Italy to Canada, leaving his wife and children behind, working to make enough money until they could join him.

I imagined him writing tender words to his wife and making plans for their future.

Atticus Finch is one of my favorite literary characters. He is wise, patient, and honorable. As I wore my grandfather's shoes, I couldn't help but feel Atticus's words to Scout. I will never know what it was like to live my grandfather's life, but the beauty of being a writer, is that a pair of shoes can contain a character, and his story.


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