The Shoe Box
As the only living relative, I came back to the old family farm to clean it up. It would as listed as a “handyman’s special”. My grandfather died the week before. It needed to be sold. The updating would be costly. All the old memories came back. Grandpa doing the milking. Grandma frying bacon and potatoes for breakfast. The smells lingered as I opened the back door. My parents died when I was a teenager and my grandparents finished raising me.
They lived frugally. Using and reusing things. Never let anything go to waste. Backs of envelopes were used for note paper and lists. Potato peels and beet tops were put on the garden to enrich the soil. I just figured it was because they were poor and did the best they could. There was never any shortage of love.
I cleaned out the kitchen cupboards and pantry. There were shelves of clean empty canning jars. The plates were chipped as were the cups and bowls. Pots and pans were old and some were dented. Nothing of value. Grandma never owned an electrical appliance. Electricity cost money. Even the silver plating was coming off the knives and forks.
Moving from room to room, I saw the shabby and well-worn furniture and rugs. Then, on the shelf in the closet, I saw a shoe box, almost hidden. It was from a pair of Keds, red, size 9, $1.99. Grandma wore those shoes until they were full of holes. Even then, she wore them in the garden. Curious to see if it was the old pair of shoes, I lifted the lid. I saw more cash than I’d ever seen before. Rubber bands fell apart as I picked up the top bundles. There were some large bills, but mostly singles.
My grandparents had lived so Spartan as to save this money. Taped to the inside of the lid was an envelope. The glue on the flap crumbled. By now, I was shaking as I took a small piece of paper out. There was the spidery handwriting of Grandma.
My Darling Granddaughter,
We had no need of fancy things. We’ve been and content the way we lived. Take this and do something frivolous, a trip, a
fine piece of jewelry, a fancy car. It is our gift to you.
As I started to count the bundles, I could only estimate how much there was. By living sparingly, I could remodel this house and buy some livestock. My dream came true.
Diane Valentine has a degree from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Her works can be found in, among others, the Waukesha County Historical Newsletter, the New Authors Journal and the Boston Literary Magazine. For several years, she's been enrolled at AllWriters’ Workplace and Workshop with internationally known author and teacher, Kathie Giorgio.