Nancy Fadem's long-forgotten toe shoes.

Nancy Fadem's long-forgotten toe shoes. Credit: Nancy Fadem

Sometimes things we treasure are hidden in plain sight, or sometimes just plain hiding away. Such is the saga of a beloved souvenir of my long ago past.

But first, a flashback to the beginning of this story: It was 1964. My husband and I had been living in a one-bedroom apartment in Jackson Heights since we married. We now had a beautiful 3-year-old daughter and her 16-month-old very active brother.

It was time to consider larger quarters, since we were expecting a third child in a few months.

My husband and I were two innocents, with almost no sophistication and zero experience of living in a house of our own. Where would we go? What kind of house would we need? What could we afford? Would we need a mortgage? Down payment? Insurance? School district? (What’s a “school district”?)

Fortunately, by sheer good luck, we walked into a storefront real estate broker in Roslyn Heights. The broker patiently, quickly and confidently filled in some facts of real estate. He also showed us some houses in a nice neighborhood. One we particularly liked was situated on a street called “Appletree Lane.” It seemed so suburban. This would answer all of our concerns.

Moving to the suburbs

We moved in just before Thanksgiving 1964. The process was overwhelming. Although we were moving to a much larger space, there was so much stuff to put away. The equipment and supplies just for our two babies, as well as for our expected third child, took up much space. (Our fourth child was born a few years later.)

One of our solutions was to put things that we didn’t immediately need into cartons. We found a crawl space above the garage that allowed us to put a few cartons away for a “couple of months.”

Fast forward to 2019. One day, when our handyman was doing some work in the garage, I came out to see how he was progressing. He pointed to a large square hole in the ceiling and asked if he should close it up. Sure, I said. But I thought I’d better look first to see if there was anything useful up there.

After our “couple of months” of storage in 1964, a large carton that had not been seen, touched or even thought about for 55 years was discovered and brought down.

Inside the dusty box were old papers, notebooks, Crayola pictures and photos from a bygone era.

Suddenly, I saw them: my toe shoes, lying patiently all these years waiting to be found! What a complete and total surprise. I had forgotten all about them.

The corps de ballet

When I was 11, my mother had taken me to Radio City Music Hall to see the Corps de Ballet perform. I was awestruck watching these glamorous dancers on their toes in perfect unison in their beautiful pink satin toe shoes.

I wished I could have shoes like them so that one day I could dance on the stage as well. So on my 12th birthday, my parents gifted me toe shoes, as well as dance lessons.

Now, there they were, lying in the old carton, pink, shiny satin and very professional-looking but, alas, dirty, faded and stained. When they were new, they were bright pink with soft white lamb’s wool placed inside the shoes to form a pillow for my toes. Pink satin ribbons had been sewn on each shoe with crooked stitches made by me, with my 12-year-old child’s hands. The lamb’s wool, now brown with age, was still inside each shoe.

I have carefully placed these precious toe shoes in a place where they can now be seen after being hidden for so long. I’m very pleased to answer all curious questions. So what if they’re a bit worn and shabby? They have a story to tell, as does their owner.

 Nancy Fadem

Roslyn Heights

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