A Lost Sole

By: Lan

Earlier today, I went with Cynthia and a few of the SOLE SISTERS team to the Senior Source to collect stories. Being fluent in Vietnamese, I was asked to translate any interviews or stories that came along from the Vietnamese seniors. The lady, Xuan, was a very gentle and petite woman who chose her words carefully and had an air of grace about her that had me sitting up just a little bit straighter. But I could see a spark in her eyes, which grew brighter as the interview progressed, that gave me a glimpse of the feisty woman that she once was in her younger years. The young woman who left behind her job as a teacher and came over to the States, working at a hotel to get by. The very first shoes that she bought here after saving up, were a pair of high heels. She loved high heels because they made her taller and they were fun and exciting. She said that the shoes here were more durable than the sandals that she wore in Vietnam – she loved them.

Xuan

Xuan Pham with Lan

Growing up, my mother always told my sister and me stories of her childhood in Vietnam. Her family left the country in ’75 and it was their journey overseas to the States that has stayed with me all these years. Their departure was quick, leaving very little time for packing personal possessions. Somewhere over the ocean, on their way to the Philippines, my grandfather tossed a suitcase full of money and family trinkets over the side of the boat. At this point in the story, I always had to ask why? She said it was because in that moment, having been forced to flee the only home he had ever known and heading towards a future so distant and foreign, he saw no value in money, or toys, or jewels – there would be no reason to bring them. So this was how I always pictured the people of my country leaving – hundreds of boats bobbing amidst the waves, floating through a sea of memories left behind and lost to the waters forever.

After growing up watching my grandfather become more and more bitter about the years spent away from his beloved country, I never even gave a second thought towards what the Vietnamese people might have discovered in their new lives. I focused on the things that were left behind – favorite shoes, lucky trinkets, shiny rings – thinking that things left behind are things that are lost forever. I almost missed the things that my people found here to move forward with; the new lives that they forged in memory of the ones left behind on the shores of Vietnam.

Somewhere down the road, lost soles are replaced by new soles – but there are never any forgotten soles.