Mr. Vassilotti was our town cobbler back in the day, post WWII. Money was scarce. There were few stores and no malls. We didn’t just go out and buy new. Everything needed was repaired.
Like many cobblers in those days, he had a rounded back from years of stooping over his work. His shop smelled of old leather. On the counter were assorted items rendered almost as-good-as-new, waiting for pick-up. On any given day, there would be ladies’ purses, wallets, baseball gloves, boots, and of course, repaired shoes of various sizes and shapes.
Hanging in the air was more than the smell of old leather. Anyone entering his small shop would inhale pride from the little leaguer whose baseball glove nabbed balls out of the air. The lined-up work shoes would honor the sweat from toiling farmers or construction laborers. And resoled school shoes would emit a sense of the relief felt by a worried parent knowing the shoes would last another season. The town cobbler did all this . . . and more.
No one would leave without a lecture from Mr. Vassilotti.
The old cobbler cared about good sturdy shoes. He could never hide his contempt for flimsy store-bought-trendy shoes. And how about the way we walk? Shaking his head in deep, long, sorrowful disdain, he would spiel a lecture mixing Italian and English in new and creative ways.
“Che-pica! Looka. Looka here! Guarda le suole delle tue scarpe!
Guarda! Guarda! You musta walk with tutti suole.”
Amid the din and the clamor of our busy lives, it is amazing how an obscure small voice from the past can pierce through the noisy soundtrack of our existence. When I look down to see the worn parts of my walking shoes, it is Mr. Vasilotti’s voice that I hear in his broken English.
Guarda! Guarda! Le suole! (Look at the soles!)
Only in my broken, mixed up translation, this is what I heard:
“Guard, guard, you must guard your souls.”
Not a bad thing to recall when shoes or souls are in need of repair.
Lamp unto My Feet
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word. (Psalms 105-107)