Every year, as the holidays approached, we dug through white tissue paper to find those trinkets and doo-dads that represented Christmas to our family. If you stopped by our house you’d’ve seen scattered about the requisite plastic wreaths, stinky candles, excessive tinsel, and tiny-Santa-in-sleigh-with-fake-gifts; all the wonderful junk that make the holidays special.
But you might have wondered about the big red macaroni shoe.
What symbolic meaning, what religious mandate would be represented by a big red macaroni shoe, you might ask.
The big red macaroni shoe came into being as the result of communication problems between my younger sister and mother. Stephanie has always had a rather unique way of expressing herself. We have actual home footage of her at age 8 playing “reporter” and asking our aunt about dinner via the statement “How is that what you have been having for this dinner?”. My mother’s way of dealing with her was to ask me “What did she say?”. Of course, Stephanie’s now a psychologist, but that’s another story.
So one morning when Steph was in first grade she suddenly remembered that she needed to bring a shoe to school for a project. I don’t know if my mother didn’t hear the details or if Stephanie didn’t provide them - all I know is that when I got home from 6th grade that day, there was one fewer shoe in MY closet. From a pair I had been wearing.
Evidently Stephanie’s brownie troop had taken on a holiday project that involved little first grader’s old shoes and macaroni. When they saw her dragging in my big, clunky, size-whatever, they set her by herself at the end of the table and gave her her own coffee can of elbow noodles. What was supposed to be an afternoon’s pleasant diversion became weeks of her diligently gluing macaroni on my former footwear. Finally the thing was deemed complete and spray-painted a festive red.
And for years, without question or reservation, my Mom dug that big shoe out and set it on the coffee table every Christmas. She’d added some fake holly for that extra holiday touch. I imagine in the original craft concept it was supposed to be some kind of ornament, but this shoe was almost adult-sized and far too large for any hook arrangement. So on the coffee table it sat.
It wasn’t until I was in college and busily engaged in questioning everything that I thought to ask why on earth we had a big red macaroni shoe on our coffee table as part of our Christmas decor. We shared many laughs as we pieced the story together. And Mom still has the shoe.
I’ve decided that it did represent something after all, though; that no matter what piece of crap a kid brings home, a mother will cherish it. And there’s something kind of sweet about that.