The shoes at the bottom of the stairs are my father’s magical boots. They are black and huge and made of leather. They have shoelaces that go all the way up to a few inches below his knee. Father’s boots belong at the bottom of the stairs and no one was allowed to touch them, move them or place anything beside them. He didn’t mind, though, when Mother placed her pink slippers beside them. Sometimes they sparkled, other times they looked gray. But we were never to touch father’s boots.
Father’s boots were special. Once, I heard Father from the room telling Mother: “Wife, I need my boots so we’ll have money to feed the children and send them to school.” Mother went out the room and told Father that the boots were under the stairs. When he came home we had bread and chicken for dinner, and pencils and notebooks for school. The boots had brought him money indeed!
Everyday, Father wore his boots. When he comes home he would sit on his chair, take off his boots, and place them under the stairs. Then he would bring out the bag the boots brought him. There was bread, chicken, and sometimes butter! Father’s boots was generous indeed! They fed us all and sent us to school.
But poor boots! Sometimes, when father came home they were dirty and grey, with mud stuck under the boots. Father would say, “My boots are dirty and tired. Let’s eat.” But the next day the boots would shine and father could wear them again.
Once, Father’s boots sparkled and I could see them from my room. It was Sunday, Father did not wear his boots that day. I was so curious of Father’s boots that I wanted to touch them. I walked out of my room and stared at the boots. No one was there. I wanted to touch the boots, if only for a while. I held out my hand. It was a few inches away when mother’s voice came.
“What are you doing?” she said. “Don’t touch those boots, otherwise Father will be angry and you won’t have bread tonight.”
I never tried to touch Father’s boots again, but that did not stop me from wanting to. One day Father was sitting on his chair reading a newspaper. I was on the stairs staring at the boots.
He looked up and said to me: “If you work hard enough, someday, you’ll have your own boots as well.”
“My own boots? Really?”
Father nodded and went back to reading his paper.
I wanted my own boots, so I worked really hard. I finished all my chores on time and did my homework every night. It was hard work and it would be long before I had my own, but I wanted my own boots.
One day, Father did not wear his boots. He lay in bed all day. A man in a hat and coat, carrying a bag, went up the room and left his shoes under the stairs. I picked up his shoes and moved them away from Father’s boots. I heard murmurs from their room. A few minutes later the man in the coat opened the door. He smiled at me, put on his shoes and left. Mother went back to the room and closed the door.
Father did not wear his boots for a long time. The boots remained under the stairs for a long time, and did not sparkle. They turned gray and dusty. We no longer had butter. Still Father did not wear his boots. We no longer had chicken anymore, only bread. Perhaps the boots were angry because Father did not wear them.
Father did not wear his boots for months, so for months we only ate bread. Finally, Mother told me to take care of Father while she went out to find money. I told her to wear Father’s boots, but she only smiled at me and said that they did not fit her.
For a time Mother wore her brown shoes but the brown shoes never brought us butter. Some days, the brown shoes gave us bread and chicken, but some days only bread. Father’s boots were more generous, but Father never wore them again. They sat under the stairs collecting dust.
A long time passed, the brown shoes brought us bread and chicken, but they never gave us butter. Father no longer wore his boots, he did not even get out of bed anymore.
Then one day, mother came to me. Her face was sad. I asked her what was wrong.
“Perhaps it’s time for you to wear Father’s boots.”
“Wear Father’s boots?”
“But I wanted my own boots. I worked so hard for them.”
“Sometimes, wearing your Father’s boots is more important than having your own.”
“But will Father let me wear his boots?”
“They’re your boots now.” Mother said.
I stared at the boots. I could finally touch them!
The next day the boots sparkled. They sparkled for me, I thought. Mother told me to wear them.
I sat down and held one of the boots. It was rough and heavy! I put my foot in and tied the lace. I took the other one and tied it too. The boots fit me! They felt odd, but they were very comfortable.
Mother smiled at me and told me she’d take me to the factory.
When I came home we had butter again! I came home everyday with bread, chicken and butter. Mother was happy and so were my brothers and sisters. Mother told me I could no longer go to school if I kept wearing the boots. So I told her I’d wear the boots until Johnny could wear boots too. She smiled and cried at the same time, then held me.
Father passed away. By then Johnny and I were both wearing boots. People with all sorts of shoes came to say goodbye to Father. Mother, wearing her pink slippers, cried. My sisters cried too. Long after Father left, Mother passed away as well and left her pink slippers under the stairs.
I no longer wear Father’s boots. I wear black leather shoes now, but I still keep Father’s boots under the stairs, with mother’s pink slippers beside them.