Red rubber boots

red-rubber-boots

It is Sunday, the day my Granddaddy is off from work at the shipyard. It is the day we usually walk to the playgrounds behind the churches across the busy city street, my small hand clasped in his large one, as we wait for the traffic light to change. Today it is raining and we can’t go out. I sit by his recliner on the braided rug beside his feet – he wears black lace-up shoes every day – and sigh.

“What’s the matter, Duck?” he wants to know. Sometimes he calls me Duck, sometimes he calls me Pig. I do not know why. He just does.  It makes me feel warm inside.

“Granddaddy, the girls in kindergarten have red boots to wear when it rains. I don’t have boots.”

“Oh, I see. I guess you been wanting some of those boots?”

I nod my head and crawl up into his lap. “Yes, Granddaddy. For a long time.” His black leather cap is on the side table by the recliner. I pick it up and put it on my head. It smells like him. A little Vitalis and a lot of goodness.

He wraps his arms around me. “Tell me about these boots, what they look like.”

“You can pull them over your shoes … ” I begin.

He got them for me, of course, those red rubber boots that I proudly wore to school and stored on the bottom shelf in the cloakroom, beside the boots of the other girls.

At the time he got them, I did not know that his retirement was imminent, that within the year he’d move back home to the far reaches of eastern North Carolina, three hours away. I would only see him a couple of times a year from then on.

I grew up. I had children of my own. When I went to visit Granddaddy, I sat on the stool by his recliner, as close to him as I could get. He patted my arm. We sat this way for a long time, without any conversation, just being together.

“You remember them red rubber boots I got for you?” he asked eventually. His blue eyes twinkled at me. Every now and then, across the decades, he’d mention those boots.

“Oh, yes, Granddaddy. I remember. I loved them so much.”

He chuckled, patting my arm with his large, wrinkled hand.

He was retired for thirty years, living to be almost 93.

I had nearly forgotten the red rubber boots when I happened to see a pair at the store a year or so ago. They were so like the boots he gave me when I was five.

“Ah, Granddaddy,” I whispered. “You’re never far away.”

I bought them.

They protect me from the rain; they keep me grounded, connecting me to the earth that my grandfather loved, for he was a lifelong farmer even though he had to find better-paying work to provide for his family. The color brightens the gloomiest day. I wear my boots with deepest gratitude for a humble man who knew about sacrifices, great and little, fiercely proud that his blood flows in my veins.

I remember, Granddaddy. I always will.

slice-of-life_individual

18 thoughts on “Red rubber boots

    • Thank you, Janie! It’s raining here today and the memory is so vivid. We are blessed beyond measure to have the grandfathers we did. Glad to meet another kindred spirit! Savor your memories and your day.

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  1. What a perfect tribute to him and a lovely slice. I love how ordinary objects can have such significance in our lives and tell the stories of our past. This could be a theme for your slices this March. I love the dialogue and the way you set up the story and connected it to today. Lovely!

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    • Thank you so much! I so enjoy looking for the extraordinary hidden inside the ordinary – I absolutely love symbolism. I am so glad you enjoyed reading the post and so appreciate your thoughts.

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  2. Your story touched me! You painted such a picture of the love you two shared. I especially liked the part where you described visiting him after you were grown and him asking about the rubber boots. My grandfather carried me home from the park one day after the slide was too hot to play on. He also lived to be 93. Every time I would see him, that story would come into the conversation and he would smile and laugh at the memory. I treasure that memory now just like yours and your boots. Thanks for starting my day with warm fuzzies.

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    • They were such gifts, weren’t they, our grandfathers. Not a day passes that I don’t think of mine. Amazing that they lived to be the same age! I am so glad the story meant something to you, that it struck a pleasant chord. Have the most joyful of days!

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  3. Your post brought tears to my eyes. These boots hold these tremendous memories and fondness for your granddaddy. It really reminds me to pay close attention to the simple objects, gestures, and experiences.

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    • Oh my, thank you so much! Yes – those simple things have the most profound power. The boots represent so many things to me, almost more than I can capture in words. Blessings on you and your day.

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  4. This is beautiful! My grandmother is 92 and this post makes me want to go see her and give her a bug hug! It is serendipitous how something small…like red rubber boats…can take us back to such vivid and special memories. I will be teaching mood and tone next week to my 6th graders. Would you mind if I use this as a mentor text with them? It is a perfect example! Have a great writing-kind-of day!

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  5. Your post is very nostalgic and reminds me of my own humble, hardworking grandfather. I can feel your unconditional love for your granddad even though you weren’t able to spend every day with him.

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    • So glad my Granddaddy reminded you of yours! Love never dies. Thank you for your thoughts – hope you will write or have been writing about your grandfather. The memories are priceless.

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  6. This is such a beautiful story and way to remember your grandfather. I’ve lost my last three grandparents within the past 5 years, and there are so many little things I do just like this that keep them close to me as symbols of the life they lived and the love they gave me. I can tell from this piece that you, too, we’re blessed with an amazing grandfather in your life. Thanks for for sharing this story!

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