THE LITTLE SHOE IN THE SNOW
The dream was back. It had been years since I last had that dream. I sat on the edge of my bed with that heavy feeling. The same feeling I had as a youngster whenever I had the dream.
In my dream it is snowing, I am a child playing, tossing handfuls of snow in the air. Two boys are walking away from me. In the dream I am happy as I play, but then there is a huge darkness and I get frightened. As it looms closer to me I start to cry, then all of a sudden I am riding in either a wagon or a buckboard in the snow. I am crying, but I don’t know why. I spot a small shoe laying in the snow, and that’s where I always wake up with a start.
Why am I having this stupid dream again, I thought. It tormented me as a child. When I told my mother about it, she told me to think about my guardian angel before I went to sleep and I wouldn’t have the dream. That didn’t work. One night I just stopped dreaming it. Now it was back. In the dream I am still a child, but in real life I am 40 years old and married, with three children and a full time job. We have two boys and a girl. They are happy, healthy kids, who of course love to play in the snow.
Weeks pass, I am still dreaming the dream. I tell my husband Mike about it, and how I used to dream it when I was a child. Every detail is the same. I asked him what he thinks it means.
“You are a nut”, he says.
“Thanks,” I say, “You’re a big help.”
“Look honey, you’re probably just worried about the kids”
I hope he is right, but now I am worried about my kids. They are on my mind all day at work, I keep getting this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach; it is very unsettling. I am grateful my job allows me to be home before the boys arrive from school. I have a woman who watches my daughter until I get home, because she is in Kindergarten and only attends a half day.
I tell my sister about the dream; she hasn’t got a clue what it means. She wants to know why I didn’t tell her about it back then.
“I don’t know, maybe I forgot about it during the day'”
“Why don’t you call Aunt Mina,” Sis says, “she knows what dreams mean.”
“Maybe I will.” I say, and we return to our regular conversation.
Aunt Mina was my mother’s oldest sister. My mother passed away when I was twenty eight. She was the best mom in the world, but her life as a child was filled with sorrow. Grandmother died when mom was only four years old. Grandfather died when she was sixteen, leaving her an orphan. She lived with one of her older brothers until she married my dad. She lived long enough to see my oldest son, but was gone before my other two were born. Dad passed after my second son was born. I missed them both.
More weeks pass, I am still dreaming the dream. I tried to figure out by myself why. I came up with no answer. I also tried to think good thoughts about my guardian angel before I went to sleep. That didn’t help either. I was getting desperate.
I finally decided to call my aunt. She was eighty one years old and repeated herself several times during our conversation. I tried to be understanding, but it was hard as I have no patience. I decided that I would go and visit her instead, since she didn’t repeat herself as much in person. I told her I was coming on Sunday to visit. She sounded very happy about it and reminded me to bring some of the chicken and rice she loved so much.
Sunday arrived, I made chicken and rice, peas and carrots and salad for dinner. I made extra to have leftovers for the family and enough to take a helping to my aunt. I told Mike that I was going to visit my aunt after dinner, I had not visited her in quite a while and that she sounded lonesome when I spoke with her earlier. Mike loved Aunt Mina, and he knew I loved her like a second mom. He said he would take care of the home front and to have a nice visit. When I told the kids I was going to visit Aunt Mina and dad was going to watch them, shouts of glee and laughter erupted. I knew what that meant. They would stay up past their bed time, and have a junk food fest while I was gone.
I packed the meal for my aunt in a plastic container. I had also baked a chocolate cake and packed enough for both of us to share with a cup of tea after her meal. Aunt Mina loved chocolate cake. I loved chocolate cake, I think the whole world loves chocolate cake. I kissed everyone goodnight (never goodbye, always see you later), and told them to behave and listen to their dad. They all but shoved me out the door. Party time had started, I thought with a smile.
Aunt Mina lived in a small white house in Elmont New York; the landscaping was well maintained by some of her grandsons. When I rang the bell, she called out, “Come in Patti, the door is open.”
“Aunt Mina, why did you leave the front door open, anyone could just walk in.”
“I just opened it a little while ago after I went to the bathroom. I didn’t want to have to get up again because my hip is bothering me.”
“Oh, OK.” I kissed her hello and she gave me a big hug and was smiling from ear to ear.
“The chicken smells good” she said.
“Do you want to eat now?” I asked.
“In a little while, I have something I want you to do for me.” I knew what was coming. Aunt Mina was a beautiful woman even at the age of eighty one. She had short white hair tinted with a touch of blue. Greenish hazel eyes and a bright smile. “Patti, go down stairs and pin up the drapes that are hanging on the back wall. They are too long and I want you to pin them up so the bottom just touches the floor.”
“Why?” I asked. “No one can see them anyway.”
“Just do it, I know they are too long and Mary (her daughter, and my Godmother) didn’t have the time. The straight pins are in the box on the table, and make sure you make it even all the way across.”
“Aunt Mina,” I whined.
“Just do it and shut up you little brat.” she said and she started laughing. I went down stairs and did as I was told.
When I was finished I yelled up to her, “Do you want me to hem them as well?”
“No.” came the reply, “no one is going to see them anyway.” I shook my head and went back upstairs. “Did you make them even?”
“Yes, Aunt Mina, I made them even.”
“Good girl.” she replied. “Now, how about some of that chicken and rice. And in the refrigerator is a 6 pack of Miller Nips, bring two of them in with you too.”
“Aunt Mina! You drink beer?”
“Yes, I love my beer.” she said laughing.
“I didn’t know you drank, are you becoming a wild woman, filling yourself with alcohol and running around with strange men?”
“ Oh stop, you know I am not like that, I just like beer” she said laughing.
I heated her meal, took the two beers out of the refrigerator and served her on a TV tray that she had set up in front of her. After she finished, I went into the kitchen to wash out the container.
“Patti, put the container in the cabinet above the counter,” she called out.
“Aunt Mina, this is my container from home, I was going to take it back with me.”
“Well it’s mine now”, she said laughing. “So just put in the cabinet.”
I opened the cabinet and there were dozens of containers stacked inside. I was going to say something, but thought twice and just put the damn thing in the cabinet. I unwrapped the foil from the chocolate cake, put it on a plate and sliced it into two pieces.
“Oh! I smell chocolate.” said my aunt.
“Yes sweetie I made a cake and brought some for you and me to have with tea, or maybe you would rather have yours with a bottle of beer.” I said laughing.
“Stop being a brat, I will have mine with tea too.” she said laughing back at me. She finished her meal letting me know how delicious it was, and what a good girl I was to come see her. I cleared her tray and made a cup of tea for each of us and served it with the chocolate cake.
As we sat eating cake and drinking tea, I said, “Aunt Mina, can I ask you something?”
“What do you want to ask me” she said.
“Well when I was just a kid I used to have this dream.” I went on to explain the dream to her. I also told her that I stopped having the dream when I was still a child, but now I was having it again. “Does it mean anything?” I asked. Tears started streaming down her cheeks. “Aunt Mina! What’s the matter? Why are you crying?” I thought it must mean one of my kids was going to die.
“Oh, it’s Flori.” she said.
“Who’s Flori?” I asked.
“Flori was my brother, but he died when he was six.”
“What happened to him?”
“He was hard of hearing. One day he was on his way to school with my two brothers. They were walking ahead of him and he stopped to play in the snow. My brothers yelled to him that a train was coming, but he couldn’t hear them, and he had his back to the train. They started running back to get him, but it was too late. The train hit him and he died instantly.”
“I didn’t know your brother died that young.” I said.
“He was so beautiful.” she said.
“Aunt Mina, don’t cry. How old was my mom when he died?”
“She wasn’t born at the time.” she replied. “He died in 1917 and your mother was born in 1918.”
“I am sorry Aunt Mina. I know this sounds silly but, what does that have to do with my dream?” . “When Flori was being buried, the family followed the hearse in a horse-drawn wagon. On the way to the cemetery we passed the spot where Flori got hit by the train. There I noticed a little shoe lying in the snow. I knew it was my brother Flori’s shoe.”
Chills covered my body, “What does my dream mean, then? I didn’t even know him, why would I dream about that?”
“He’s with you.” she said.
“What do you mean? With me. In what way?”
“He’s in your spirit. He doesn’t want to be forgotten.”
“Well after hearing that, I certainly will never forget him.” I said.
“Good.” she answered. We chatted a bit more, I changed the subject and soon it was time for me to leave. As I kissed my aunt goodbye, she placed her hand over my heart and said. “Flori is here, love him and remember.”
Another chill, “I will,” I said and locked her door as I left. On the drive home I tried to put the story out of my mind, but it lingered. I felt a sense of relief when I got home. The kids were all sleeping and Mike was watching TV. I told him what happened when I visited my aunt.
“Boy, that’s weird.” he said, and that was that.
I didn’t have the dream ever again, but I never forgot about my uncle. Every once in a while he would pop into my mind.
Twenty years passed, I was retired, and now a grandmother. My second grandson was born. He sort of looked like my mother’s father with the one eye that drooped. He was such a love, like all my grandchildren. I always felt a little something special for him, but could not put my finger on it. He would always cuddle with me, and loved when I made little sounds in his ear and told him he was my baby. When he was about seven he had to have tubes placed in his ears for a while, but he is fine now.
One day I decided to do a genealogy about my mother’s family. I started out by getting copies of birth and death certificates. After weeks of filling out forms and sending money orders I received several certificates of death from the state of New York. One of them was for my uncle Flori. I opened the certificate and started reading it. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. He was born on September 1st., the same day my second grandson was born.
Did the dream mean something? Let me know what you think…..