This won't be particularly coherent, but I felt compelled to get these thought-fragments down somehow. It makes me feel more... personlike, to think like this.
My grandmother's shoes are waterproof. Or rather, I should say the sneakers I am now wearing, which came from my grandmother, are more waterproof than my other, older pair of shoes, which I had worn down so hard the rubber sole had cracked - fine in the dry summer, but when I walked through anything wet, it would wick and seep up through the sole, soaking my feet in cold water.
I spent most of the snowy portion of the Events FAD in Raleigh padding around the hotel in dry socks while the wet socks and wet shoes dried over the heater, only pulling on my shoes to go outside for meals, then beelining for the heater in my room when we got back to swap out the wet shoes and socks for dry socks. Rochester and Toronto were similarly cold and wet. I finally decided I was being an idiot - "oh, but these shoes are still good!" was clearly no longer the case - and swapped out for Guama's shoes, a sturdy white pair.
The sneakers were supposed to be hers, I think, but she never wore them and I'm just about the same size, so she sent them in a box of clothes for the kids; I got the sneakers and an embroidered apron that's almost too nice to cook with. (Besides, I don't wear an apron when I cook; the clothes I wear are meant to be spattered with mud, grass, tomatoes - and washed.)
Guama's shoes, my mother's blouse. The purple pajamas Guama sewed for me when I was little, and which have since been passed down the line of cousins, ending with Audrey, who is 17 years younger than I am and who has recently outgrown them. A luggage from Lak-ee (my 6th aunt on my mom's side, June). A shirt from Ama ("mother of my father") and a shirt from Ema ("sister of the mother of my father"). Mom saving her old laptop for Ama, me passing down photography and math books to my cousin Melanie when she starts getting interested in things. Little bits of cloth and thought and love passed across the ocean and across the continent and down through time to children we have not seen grown up, who we only know in fleeting and outdated snapshots of reunions when he still had braces and she was not yet as tall as her mom.
We look at the emailed pictures of preschoolers we've never seen; we send clothes and hope they fit, hope a hand-me-down can somehow hold the memories of multiple little girls climbing on sinks to brush their teeth, complaining that they're not yet sleepy, growing up until the sleeves reach halfway past their wrists, watching with bemusement as the next little one fits a little bit too small into the pants at first. We put sneakers in a box and don't know whether the person on the other end will sigh and put them in a closet, or whether she will wear them every day until they're scuffed with sidewalk marks and comfortable and part of her - a part of her that came from you.
This is one way I know my family - by the boxes that they send, by the luggages full of toothpaste and seasoning and dietary fiber and Pepto-Bismol I haul to them when I visit, and by the same luggage stuffed with dried mangoes, Mama Sita mixes, jars of nata de coco, pouches of Mang Tomas, and paper-wrapped tablets of tsokolate on the way home. Long-distance love, highly asynchronous. And I wonder if, many years from now, I'll be packing sneakers into a box to send to my cousins' children somewhere across the world, and whether they will fit.