Every summer my family and I would rent a small coast-side wooden cottage. Nothing fancy, but it was surrounded by a myriad of joyful possibilities only a little kid’s mind could embody. I would enjoy staying late at night, lying in the near field, and watch the gathering darkness slowly remove the dusk-orange glow from the sharply outlined house against the sky.
My late uncle lived nearby. A long-time widower, he had already forsaken his permanent urban environment for a quiet remote settlement. Although having never met his wife, I could tell by his uneven delicate bursts of sensitivity that her loss had shaped parts of his temper.
One afternoon, I was instructed to deliver him a dinner invitation.
He lived in a humble little house that used to serve as a hunting lodge. Its peculiar location made it hard to find, unless by accident. It was established middle of a clearing, deep in the woods. I took the only path available: a worn out muddy walking trail that the countless passages of lone hunters and perilous wanderers had moulded over the decades. Although the woods were quite sparse and probably provided alternative routes, my clever mind could not figure out a shorter one, and I trusted the collective wisdom to have naturally found it.
It wasn’t unusual for my uncle’s presence to be called for at our table. What was peculiar this time though, was to find him not stuck inside on his brown leather chair, but out on his porch, in a shadow cast by the blazing sun.
Both surprised and delighted by his peaceful posture, I approached him gently and delivered my usual message. He nodded quietly which seemed to both answer my request and approve of my presence. As a result, I lingered for a while, as if to assist the silence.
Some time later, or maybe not, I stepped up, took a glance at my uncle, and prompted him for a departure. He told me to go ahead, as he felt the need to put something on more suitable for the evening. So I headed home on my own, steadily.
As a child, I was quite lively, and I believe my walking pace to have been quite high. I’m bringing this up because as soon as I arrived home, I was amazed by an undefinable sight that still startles me today: leaning on my front door, like a shy but ambitious guest, was my uncle!
Looking at me, and apparently pleased by the wonder he painted on my face, my uncle sensed the only question stuck in my mind: how? He approached and, putting his arm on my shoulder, told me solemnly:
“I bought new shoes.”
Though still stunned by his performance, I looked questioningly at his shoes. But the confidence of his speech urged me to take a closer look at them.
They were stained with grass.