Small World

My friend Katie sat across from me at our picnic table. She was dropping off some homemade lentil soup and a loaf of bread a couple weeks after the death of Grace, my husband’s stepmother. Grace was memorable—opinionated, funny, and fashionable into her late ‘80’s, an aficionado of spike heels and sequined purses, a gourmet cook—and my friends had heard all about her in the fifteen years she’d been married to my father-in-law Stan.

“We were having dinner with my brother-in-law Hilary,” Katie began suddenly, bursting with a story to tell.

“Hilary was telling us that he’d been happy to see his sister recently. She lives in North Carolina, and she’d come to Ohio for a funeral for someone on her husband’s side of the family.”

Katie and her husband listened to Hilary’s story. No connections yet. Then he said something that caught their attention.

“He said it would have been nice to know the relative who died. She was a character, apparently. At her calling hours, visitors had to wait in a long line to see the family, and all around the rooms where they waited were displays of this woman’s shoes—dozens of fancy, high-heeled shoes.”

Katie and her husband shouted in unison, “You’re talking about Grace!”

Eventually all was explained. Hilary’s youngest sister is married to one of Grace’s grandchildren (by her first marriage), who came to Ohio for her husband’s grandmother’s funeral. For Grace’s funeral.

But how, Hilary asked Katie, did you know who I was talking about? Easy, said Katie and her husband. It’s about the shoes. We know all about Grace’s shoes.

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