you caTheresa’s toes curled at the tips of her worn boots bruising her toenails against the frozen seams as she pulled the toboggan that carried her younger sister. She trudged through the footprints laid out in front of her teetering awkwardly with every step. She was careful to avoid the deep mounds of fresh snow aware of the icy sting it would bring to her feet. Rita walked at her own pace in front of them creating the path for Theresa to follow. Occasionally Theresa would feel a glare as Rita turned her long neck making sure she was keeping pace. Rita would not offer to help pull the toboggan even though she was two years older and decidedly stronger. Rita’s responsibility was greater. Her hands tucked warmly into her woolen coat held tight Momma’s coins which would buy the bread and potatoes that would feed all of them tonight.
When they arrived home Rita kicked her boots off at the door and raced to hand Momma the groceries and spare change. Mr. DePrito, the grocer, surprised Momma with an extra onion and carrot today. Momma smiled at his generosity and kissed Rita’s forehead. “So smart of you, my little Rita. So smart.” Theresa listened attentively while unlacing her little sister’s shoes. While hanging their coats on the pegs by the warming stove in the kitchen, she wondered why Mr. DePrito’s kindness made Rita appear clever in Momma’s mind. She collected the scattered boots, and wiped away the excess snow before aligning them under their respective coats.
“Momma, although I love my boots and wish I could wear them forever, my feet are feeling sore after wearing them,” Theresa announced while drying the dishes that evening.
“Have you tried wearing thinner stockings?”
“I have, Momma. But it’s so cold lately and there’s not a lot of padding, and the thicker socks…”
“Rita’s due for a new pair anyhow. She will give you hers.”
Rita clapped her soapy hands and whinnied gleefully. Theresa felt akin with the sudsy clump that landed on sink in front of her-disintegrating one bubble-burst at a time.
The next day while Momma took Rita into town to shop for her new boots, Theresa cared for her younger sister who watched adoringly as Theresa breathed life into her tattered boots. She shined them with a rag dipped in Momma’s cooking oil. She used household glue to seal the frayed lace ends, making it easier for her little sister to navigate the eyelets. Borrowed scraps of batting from Momma’s quilting lined the insides for added warmth. Upon final inspection of the improvements, the sisters smiled warmly at each other.
” Those look as nice as when Rita got them,” Theresa’s sister cooed. “One day I know Momma will get me new ones…but these are almost as good.”
“Oh, but these are even better than new. So much better,” Theresa lied. “Rita took all the blisters for us… every single one. She took the blisters so we wouldn’t have to. And for that we are the lucky ones. Now, let’s try on your new boots.”
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