A year ago today, I lost my funny, smart, amazing, kind grandmother. She’s the first close relative I’ve lost, and we weren’t expecting her to go quite so soon. I’d planned on going to see her that evening, in fact—I’d made the drive from Valencia to Palm Desert two weekends in a row and was going on a third. I was all set to tell her about how I’d led my counterpoint class for the first time that morning. I’d packed the stuffed animal she gave me when I started college. I was wearing some jewelry I’d picked up at the mall earlier that week so I could show her what I was finding lately. And I still ended up going out to Palm Desert that night, but it wasn’t so I could show Gram everything I’d brought for her.
In the weeks that followed, I spent a lot of time out in the desert, going through Gram’s belongings at my grandfather’s request and taking whatever I thought I would use. I grabbed a bunch of her two-tone earrings (a pair of which I’m wearing today), a whole bunch of bracelets I’ve since fallen in love with, and a closetful of basics and pants I’d never buy for myself. (And an awesome jumpsuit with pockets that my grandfather picked out for her—props to you for thinking fashion-forward, Grandad.) All these things were split between me, my aunt, and my mother. But one thing was for me and me alone (strictly by virtue of sizing): Gram’s shoes.
Now, for the vast majority of you who never met my grandmother, Gram was always put-together. She had more outfit options than I’ve probably ever owned in my life, and with the outfits came the shoes to match. I’m incredibly fortunate that we shared a foot size once I reached adulthood, because getting to go through her collection was an adventure I’d never expected. I spent hours in her closet planning my strategy—what was I going to need? What would I actually use? What would languish alone in the bottom of my closet? And, for the most part, the shoes I took with me have served me well. Each pair has gotten its own time to shine. I wore some of her flats when I played my mid-res recital last March. I constantly find myself walking Valencia’s paseos in both pairs of Reeboks that were nested on her shelf (of the bunch, they’ve doubtless gotten the most mileage). I spent part of the summer taking a pair of wedge heels out for a spin, and I’ve got plans for a couple pairs of her boots this fall. I’m still breaking in a couple things, and I’ve got the blisters on my heels to prove it, but of all the ways to stay connected with Gram, wearing her clothes and literally walking a mile in her shoes (which are comfy and full of arch support) ranks among the best.
I will spend the rest of my life missing my grandmother. I’ve never given much thought to my potential wedding, but the one thing I always expected was to take her with me to pick out my wedding dress. Those moments are the ones that will always feel a little empty, and that’s okay. For the rest of the time, I’ll be over here in her comfy (not always comfy) shoes, making my way through life.