So, why do boots that have a row of clasps remind me of my father? You know, the over boots that often are hard to push the heel of your shoe through. One could almost dislocate a shoulder pulling a heel through the last inches like a baby’s crown pushing through the birth canal. Then, the clasps themselves would will resistance against a thumb or finger and pinch the skin leaving a glowing white and red remembrance on the side. My three brothers know what I am talking about. After sledding or snowball fighting the snow and ice would seal those clasps shut. Some only to be pried open with white knuckles and gritted teeth.
But, again, why do boots like these remind me of my father? Of course he wore them during very informative years. I was a kid who observed everything. When the original movie Home Alone released (by far my favorite of the three) there was a character that reminded me of my dad because of the boots and the beard. It was a movie about a young boy named Kevin who was accidently left behind at home while the rest of his family went to Paris over the holidays.
Another character in the movie was looked on as a villain by the children of the neighborhood. He was seen often going up and down the sidewalk with a metal garbage can of salt and a shovel. He would spread the salt as he shuffled in his half buckled boots, face stoic, back bent on the completion of his self appointed rounds. Buzz, Kevin’s older brother would retell the legend of the old man as he passed by. In a slow cadence Buzz would tell about how children came up missing occasionally. How the old man would use his shovel like a gavel and kill wandering children…never to be seen again. The old man seemed to be servicing the sidewalks from ice but in Buzz’s alert imagination was waiting for another unsuspecting child to walk by.
In reality the gray haired seventy something was a lonely father. As he shuffled and salted with his boots buckled half was his mind was on his family. His wife passed away, and he was estranged from his only son’s family. He especially was heartbroken not being able to be a grandpa to his only granddaughter. Another Christmas was approaching and his ache for them became stronger as the day drew near.
Then there was Kevin, the one forgotten by his family…home alone. His perception of the old man transforms as he gains understanding… the moment of enlightenment comes in the scene where Kevin is hiding from some thieves in a Catholic church. The old man is in there already quietly thinking and praying or something. Then the boots move toward Kevin, the metal against rubber unique soft clanking sound. Kevin is at first scared, but after a brief conversation, the fears begin to melt as the old man shares his heartbreak. Then compassion and understanding replace Kevin’s hesitations toward the old man.
Several nuances reminded me of my father who passed away years ago. The quietness, the work ethic, but mostly the boots brought me back to my father. I remember him not buckling them all the way up. I keep thinking of some transcendent truth of loose boots…There was something about the clinking as he walked that assured me of his presence. His words were few and my soul often felt abandoned by him. Maybe knowing he worked and persevered at putting on those boots for so many winters gave me the sense that I could too. That maybe I could make noise that my children would remember years from now when they might feel neglected for my lack of words. I will commit to speak into their lives more but I realize a default in me, if unchecked, can swallow good words for my family. May some clinking sound remind my children they are not alone. May my words be a source of engagement and relationship in their lives.