Lilies of the Valley

Lilies of the Valley

From A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Lilies of the Valley

On a table lay approximately fifty miniature china slippers whose colors ranged from the palest of pastels to vivid pinks and burgundies. They were trimmed with tiny ruffled lace and flowers: rosebuds, violets and lilies of the valley. The mall was hosting Antiques Week.

“This is quite a varied collection,” Ellen said to the salesman standing behind the table.

“I bought them at a farmhouse auction,” he replied. “A widow was selling just about everything she owned to move to the city. She said she received the first one when she was twenty years old. Slippers were popular miniatures to collect at the turn of the century. They are still well received today; one of my best sellers, in fact.”

Ellen couldn’t help wondering on what occasion the widow either bought, or was presented with, a special miniature. Maybe it was an anniversary, or her birthday. Perhaps her grandchildren purchased a slipper as a Christmas present.

I’ll bet if these shoes could talk, they would divulge a great deal about the joys and sorrows of this woman and her family, thought Ellen. Why didn’t she give these heirlooms to her children or grandchildren?

Ellen began to tire of the large package she carried in her arms. A rest was in order. She spied a bench directly across the aisle. With a sigh, Ellen sat down, placing her parcel between herself and a short, white-haired lady. Facing the woman, Ellen asked, “Are you interested in antique?” Tears came to her eyes and she brushed them away with her wrinkled hand.

“Why, mmnnn, yes, I was,” the woman answered. “Did you notice the salesman in the booth across the way? He recently purchased my entire collection of antique slippers.”

Ellen leaned down toward the woman. “Tell me what happened,” she whispered.

“You’ve heard the expression ‘the bottom fell out of everything’ haven’t you?”

Ellen nodded. She recalled how her grandmother was forced to sell her home and move to smaller quarters, no longer planning holiday baking and summer picnics. Now she rocks quietly, her faithful tabby at her feet.

The woman clasped her hands and continued. “My husband became quite ill. First I sold several acres of land, and that helped with the hospital expenses. When the doctor said he could do no more, I brought my husband home. I tended him until he mercifully passed away. Not wanting to be a burden to my son, I sold the farmhouse, including most of the furniture and personal possessions. I took up residence in a one-bedroom apartment near this mall. I can walk to the grocery and pharmacy in this building. Driving may not be a privilege I can enjoy much longer,” she grimaced. “Now and then I just come to the mall and sit and observe the action around me, just as you are doing now.”

Ellen smiled. “Would you tell me which slipper was your favorite; which miniature meant the most to you?”

“When we became engaged, my fiancé presented me with a pearl-white shoe encrusted with lilies of the valley. It was not the most valuable miniature in the collection, but I treasured the memory of that night,” she reflected.

Ellen rose and said, “Would you be so kind as to watch my package for a few minutes?” The woman nodded affirmatively.

Ellen sought the salesman behind the table and spoke to him. He stooped down out of sight and wrapped an item in white tissue paper.

Returning to the bench, Ellen handed the lady her purchase and grinned. “You remind me of my grandmother whom I dearly love. I have a little something for you.”

The woman was flustered. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Don’t say anything. Open it,” Ellen admonished.

The woman tore away the tissue paper. Tears fell gently down her withered cheeks as she recognized the pearl-white shoe given to her many years ago.

Jacqueline Moffett

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