The following is re-posted from my personal Facebook page (June 9, 2020). It was pecked out quickly with my thumbs on my mobile phone. Many friends and colleagues appreciated it and two asked if they could use it in their work with students in relation to the idea of biographical objects (see, for example, Hoskins 1998: Kay 2016). To make such use easier, I reproduce the short essay and photographs here. I appreciate everyone who expressed such kind interest in this post.
My Dad’s Shoes
The day after my father’s passing, my mother and brother and I began sorting his clothes and belongings. Among his shoes was a pair that was quite atypical for him (and me). They were these simple, espadrille-like slip ons. The WallMart house brand. On a lark I tried them on and they fit comfortably. They felt great. I asked my mom if I could have them. She said yes. I have basically worn them everyday since then, a fact facilitated by the quarantine lifestyle. I have pretty much walked in my fathers footsteps for 105 days. Because of how we live now, that has meant wearing them for walks around my neighborhood. I’ve been averaging about four miles per day, which means I’ve walked about 400 miles in them. For the first time in my life I have worn a hole all the way through a pair of shoes. I have even worn a hole through the two insoles. To keep going I have taken to putting a piece of cardboard between the insoles and soles. This will get them through one walk each patching, but the sole is getting so thin that I won’t be able to keep this up much longer. I don’t want to give them up but that moment is arriving. It has been good to think of my dad with these shoes over the past three challenging months. These shoes are now what my colleagues call biographical objects, despite the fact that my dad seems not to have actually bonded with them particularly. (The were barely worn and my mom could not recall the circumstances of his getting them.) I will miss walking with them, and him.
References Cites (in the Headnote)
Hoskins, Janet. 1998. Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of Peoples’ Lives. New York: Routledge.
Kay, Jon. 2016. Folk Art and Aging: Life-Story Objects and their Makers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.