The Secret Life Of Grandpa’s Boots

December 3, 2010

On the porch right now, next to the Flexible Flyer sled, sit my grandpa’s boots.

They are black rubber with steel clips to hold them closed, thin and cold and uncomfortable. They are decades old. They are stored in the attic all year long, then make an appearance every December and sit next to the sled. The sled is decorated with holly and a candy cane and a bright red bow trimmed in gold. The boots are just boots, plain and modest.

But these boots have a secret. They have had moments of glory far beyond the wildest dreams of average footwear. These boots have been distinguished, recognized and enjoyed by hundreds of people. How so, you ask, for a pair of seemingly common – in their day – galoshes?

Because of Eliza.

Many years ago, these boots were an integral part of her costume as Uncle Henry in “The Wizard of Oz.” (This was a bit part; she was also the Wicked Witch and the melting scene was, for this 9-year-old, a dramatic triumph, still fondly recalled). Her entrance onto the stage, a bitty thing with hands thrust in the bib of her overalls, a big straw hat and the ridiculously large boots, twanging “Comin’, Ma” as hayseed as they come, was a flush of laughter, of knowing that this child was going to be fun to watch. And of course, she was.

And in eighth grade, these boots were again on stage, on the feet of Lurvey in “Charlotte’s Web” (They are typecast as farmwear). Tripping her up in the “get that pig!” scene, they were the perfect accessory to not-so-smart Lurvey’s character.

Last night, “Into The Woods” opened, with Eliza as the Baker’s Wife, a role filled with acting, singing and dancing. Her “pipes” have developed, her voice is full and strong and lovely. Her performance – the singing, the acting, her immersion into the character – takes my breath away. I am awed by her abilities, her hard work and her talent. For this show, her costume is that of a peasant, with flat shoes useful for all the dancing and running that the role requires.

For eleven months out of the year, these galoshes sit in the attic, still and ignored, quietly reliving their golden days on the stage, of attention and accolades and success. In the month of December, they are back in the spotlight, in a featured role on the front porch, part of a tableau of seasonal fun, a character played throughout the holidays.

When the closing night party for “Into The Woods” starts tomorrow at our house, more than 60 kids will pass by Grandpa’s boots on the porch. The boots will sit there, black and modest and plain, and perhaps a few kids will notice them, laugh at them, think how old-fashioned and silly they look. The boots will gaze at those kids smug and aloof, keeping their secret of greasepaint and costumes, lights and music.

And they will always be ready for another show.

The Divas

 

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3 Responses to “The Secret Life Of Grandpa’s Boots”

  1. rebeccapalumbo said

    From Judy Jones Rollins –
    Oh, the memories! We never called them boots—they were overshoes. (How appropriate was that?) They kept our feet clean and dry, and they were used all year ’round. They were used for scooping out the barn or wading through the pig lot in the summer, and they came in quite handy for shoveling snow in the winter. Cleaning them was no problem—pull the pump handle a few times and stick your feet under the stream of water. No respectable farmer would be without them.

  2. rebeccapalumbo said

    Judy Jones Rollins December 4 at 12:57pm
    Just one additional bit of trivia about your “truly famous footwear.” Ever wonder why the nickname “Flappers” was given to the ladies of the 20’s? Well, it seems they would get all dressed up to go out to a dance, but wouldn’t want to get their shoes muddy in the streets. They would slip on a pair of overshoes and head out the door, never taking the time to buckle them—you know, they just let them flap. It became quite a fashion statement!

  3. Dad said

    I can’t remember your grandpa ever fastening up those boots. I can still see him, bringing in the grocery bags with the boot, his coat open and a brown scarf hanging on his neck.

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