Antique Shopping — Melissa’s First Shoes


Last week while running errands, my husband wanted to know if I had additional errands in mind. Occasionally I enjoy walking through antique shops. A few years ago, one of my favorite shops was Hungry Neck Antique Mall, but it closed and now is Trader Joe’s. Driving along Coleman Blvd. in Mt. Pleasant, I’ve noticed a sign for Six Mile Antique Shop. I dropped by once, noticing many, and I do mean many, venues of antiques, trinkets and interesting items. Since I have a birthday this summer, I suggested dropping by Six Mile Antiques, just to see what they had. I’m interested in an antique mantel clock, one that chimes.

Years ago, I considered shopping in an antique mall a form of shopping for junk. Not anymore. Walking along the booths, my mind grew curious. To many people, antiques are simply junk that no one wanted anymore; however, to someone who appreciates treasures from years past, ‘junk’ and antiques are a silent story form that writers cherish. I glanced at tiny trinkets, glassware, silver, plates, cups, pictures and art. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure. How I wish I had the room, or the financial freedom to purchase so many of these treasures.

Shopping at an antique mall takes me back to the history of my grandparents, maternal and paternal. My mother’s parents I knew well, since I lived with them as a teenager. Grandma had many trinkets I loved, especially her ‘what not’ shelves, placed gently in the corner by the front door. Every Saturday, I polished it, removing the ceramic ladies, dressed in antebellum Southern attire, shining them with a toothbrush to keep them clean. Then, I polished the wood, hoping that someday I would have the what not shelves in my home — in memory of Grandma. Never did I get them, after her death.

My paternal grandmother had many antiques. Tiffany lamps, statues, porcelain vases, china, depression glass and silver. I did not have the pleasure to get to know my Dad’s mother well, since our family situation was dreadful. After her death, I managed to smuggle three pieces of depression glass, and a few pieces of silverware, dating back to the 1800’s. My mother busied herself with placing these inherited items into boxes, in route to the pawn and antique shops. When she turned to answer the phone, I found several items and rushed to my bedroom with them. Today, I still have those items. After my dad died, I kept his secretary desk that has been in his family since the early 1900’s and a beautiful wooden library table. These cherishable pieces have taught me to appreciate antiques.

Leaving my IPhone in the car, I walked along more booths, following the entrances to additional interesting areas. Glancing at china, cherishable depression glass, which I collect, dolls, jewelry, trinkets, or ‘what nots’ — stopping to look at an interesting pair of baby shoes.

Remembering when my son was little, there was a scuffed, well used white pair of baby shoes. The price was $18.00. I still had my son’s first baby shoes, somewhere, boxed up for preservation. I picked up the scuffed shoes. The leather was soft from little baby steps moving, bumping, falling, stumbling, and finally, walking, taking that first little baby step to independence. I turned the shoes over. Written in blue ink were the words, “Melissa’s First Shoes.”

The wheels of my curiosity began to race. Who is Melissa? Is she someone local? And why did someone give the shoes away? Why didn’t Melissa keep the shoes? Her first shoes. Melissa. Just who is Melissa?

My husband’s voice broke my trance. “I found a clock.”

“I’ll be there in a moment,” I said. “Look at these shoes.”

“Baby shoes. Who cares!”

“They’re Melissa’s baby shoes.”

“Whatever. Are you interested in seeing the clock?”

Hastily, I followed my husband. The clock is a steeple clock that chimes at the hour. It is beautiful. We tested it to make certain it worked and after a few minutes of bartering, we purchased the clock, for my birthday.

While boxing the clock, I went back to look at Melissa’s Baby Shoes once more. I showed them to the clerk. “Do you know anything about these shoes?” I asked.

“No…but look how scuffed they are.”

“Yes. Melissa obviously took her first steps to independence in these precious shoes. Someone actually took the time to write on the back of them, ‘Melissa’s Baby Shoes.’ Her first shoes. Why would someone give them away?”

The attractive, mature woman glanced at the back of the shoes, smiled and nodded.

“Poor Melissa.”

Thinking about those shoes and the name, Melissa, this week my curiosity continues. Someone actually cared enough to scribble, “Melissa’s Baby Shoes,” in blue ink on the bottom of the shoes. Now, those historical shoes rest on a shelf, in an antique shop. Where is Melissa? What happened to her, and why didn’t she, or a family member, keep those shoes, in her memory? Why would someone take the time to scribble her name on the bottom of her shoes — in memory of ‘Melissa’s first steps,’ only to have the shoes end up on a shelf, in an antique store?

Perhaps the title, “Melissa’s Baby Shoes,” is a metaphor for me, teaching me that to many shoppers, items in an antique shop are junk; but for me, these items are historical trinkets, taken from the life and memory of someone. Perhaps a clock, such as the steeple clock now sitting on my mantel, was a clock that a family had in their home for many years. Now, it will reside in my home, chiming on the hour, and I will cherish this clock for the rest of my life.

Still, the inscription, “Melissa’s Baby Shoes,” plays in my mind. Perhaps today Melissa is grown, with a family of her own. The shoes did not have a date, so my imagination can create a story about Melissa. Maybe she’s a dancer. Maybe she is someone, like me, who had precious items from her childhood tossed away, because no one cared. But for Melissa, I believe that someone did care enough to write “Melissa’s Baby Shoes” on the bottom, perhaps to remember Melissa and her first baby steps. Her first, unstable, but steady steps into the future. Maybe today, someone suffers from Alzheimer’s, forgetting the significance of Melissa’s first steps. I’d like to believe that Melissa was cherished enough to have the significant first steps of her childhood recorded in history, for others to know. Those tiny white shoes, with all the scuff marks and indentations of a child’s first steps will remain for someone to treasure. Melissa’s Baby Steps. So precious. So significant. Baby steps, leading to independence and freedom. Someone loved Melissa enough to preserve these moments. I hope Melissa’s Baby Shoes find a proper home. Melissa, if you are looking for your first shoes, contact me and I will be happy to share, “Melissa’s First Baby Shoes.”

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