Die Deutsch Schuster & Grandma Walton

Yesterday, The Sister & I noticed that the last shoe repair in our town was closed.  More than likely due to death, though we didn’t read the sign on the door, but then… it’s always about death.

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This got us to thinking about the little old German man, in the teeny tiniest shop downtown.  Our father always took our shoes to him & it was always a thrill when we were allowed to go with him, or later, instead of him.  We realize that we could be remembering things incorrectly, but we’re about 95% certain that we aren’t.

The reason we were always so excited to go into that tiny cramped store with half repaired shoes strewn all about is because that man was somehow magical.  He was probably only 5’4″ or 5’5″ and he wore knee socks, breeches, buckle shoes and a white apron.  And he had to have been about 200 years old.  His German accent was very strong.  I’m not even sure if he actually knew a lot of English to be honest.  He was very soft-spoken and reserved as well.  There were also tiny elves hiding in the shoes who probably helped him work at night.   Dad laughed at me when I asked, saying that he wore normal clothes, but I’m just more than certain that The Sister & I could see him for who he really was.

He seemed a man out of time.  Like he had always existed, or perhaps was simply stuck in the 18th century.  Watching the film Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium reminds me of the German Cobbler.  Where Mr. Magorium just seemed like he was from a different time period… because, well, he was.   We always wondered how the German Cobbler had even ended up in our little back-water town in southern Mississippi.  But then we wonder that about a lot of people.  Why did they choose this place?  How did they even find it?

Thinking on him, puts me in mind of another out of time person from my youth.  Our father owned a jewelry store in a section of an old 1960s apartment complex.  Across the street there lived an old lady.  The Sister & I were allowed to go and visit her when our mom brought us to the shop.  The lady’s home was frozen in time to the dawn of WWII.  The auto in the car port to all of her interior surroundings.  She, however, seemed slated for a time even older.

If you ever watched The Waltons, she dressed like the grandmother, portrayed by Ellen Corby.  Right down to her black stockings and old timey pumps.  Only the grandmother on that show was in her 60’s or 70’s in the middle of the 1930’s.  This was the middle of the 1980s.  If this woman were being accurate to fashion decades, then this woman would have been dead; a ghost when we were visiting.  Was she?

I know now why she was stuck in time, though I didn’t when I was four.  Her only child, a son, died in the war, and her husband had died about the same time, though I’m not sure why.

What I do remember clearly from my youth was that she was extremely old.  She felt older than even her surroundings presented.  That made me feel a little uneasy, but she was a really nice old lady.  The Sister & I would tromp through the car port to her kitchen door when going to see her.  It was never the front door or the side door, both of which seemed impenetrable from all the bushes and roses that had grown up around them.  She’d welcome us warmly into her super bright and sunny kitchen and then hand us each a Little Debbie Brownie with walnuts, which I always promptly picked off because I was an odd child.

Then she would show us into the next room, the parlor as she referred to it, and it felt like a tomb.  The curtains were always drawn, and the only light that spilled in was from the sun streaming into the kitchen, and a few wan rays breaking through a slit in the various shuttered curtains.  Dust motes danced in those sparse area’s of light.  The hallway to the rest of the house looked like a cave so black that it would swallow anything that wandered too closely.

Though it was dark, you could tell the house was impeccably clean.  She would wander us around the parlor showing us pictures of her dead son and husband, and I suppose so we could see the tassel satin table lamp shades, the hand crocheted doilies on everything, the delicate trinkets from by-gone eras.  This was the only other room we ever saw and after the weird promenade through the parlor it was always time to go.  We’d leave the way we came in and talk about how odd it all was, then ask my parents how in the heck they even knew her.  We never really got a straight answer out of them.

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