My Father’s Shoehorn

Crete by Victoria Goldstein

Underwriters: The Woodlands Arts Council

The moment I saw artist Victoria Goldstein’s Crete art bench I immediately thought of my father’s shoehorn and a memory when I was an eight-year-old girl living in Houston with my parents and four-year-old sister.

My sister and I often played the game of hide and seek. One of my favorite hiding spots was my father’s clothes closet. Opening the door to this room was like passing from one world into another – into the world of manly things.

It was a typical looking closet with shelves built into the wall on your right as you walked in. Several unused soap-on-a-rope bars hung on a large wall hook giving the air a peculiar vanilla, licorice and leather smell. I loved to put these soap bars around my neck and pretend they were necklaces. My father hung his work shirts and jackets on hangars on the closet’s top poles and pants on the bottom poles. His shoes were lined up underneath the pants. On the top shelf there was a small ashtray where my father kept his jewelry. Next to it a small, empty Sees Candies box held his shirt collar stays, cuff links, and spare buttons. On another shelf sat a cowboy hat, a jar of old keys, luggage tags, badges from conventions, autographed homemade Houston Rockets basketball fan signs, and this pirate face with an eye patch and fake long hair wall decoration that creeped me out. On another shelf, there was a hand carved wood cat statue and an avocado green colored flashlight. I would hold the flashlight in one hand while I would plunge my other hand into a nearby box full of tiny photo slides to randomly pick some to squint at and study. I’d see images of my parents in their young 20s playing Frisbee with their friends at Griffith Park in Hollywood, California and holiday photos of all my grandparents when they were all much younger. Next to the shelves a broken miniature slot car game was propped up against the wall. Beside that –bongo drums.

I would tuck myself deep into the left corner of the closet where the intersecting pants, and rows of shoes created an empty area of rust colored carpet – the perfect hiding spot. Within reach there was a pair of cowboy boots in which he stored various shoehorns. Most were plastic and looked like something a fairytale giant would use as a spoon. There was one shoehorn, however, that was made of metal and had a little pole attached to the end so the user wouldn’t have to bend too far over to reach at all. This shoehorn had a sleek, speed-form design and made for both a wonderful back scratcher and great pretend pen to etch designs into the carpet while I waited for my younger sister to find me. At four-years-old, finding me could take her a good hour. So, I would sigh, wait and play with the modern looking shoehorn in my father’s strange smelling closet wearing Iris Apfel-like soap necklaces.

Have you ever visited the Crete art bench? If so, how did it make you feel? What did you do when you were there? Did seeing this art bring up any memories or thoughts or ideas for you? Does it remind you of something? Someone? Does it make you think about something or someone in a new way? Did you experience a sudden rush of thoughts that were connected to other thoughts or experience disparate thoughts and emotions?

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