Annie sat on the floor of her closet, her arms wrapped around her knees. Every so often she picked up one of her shoes and tossed it into a corner.
She sighed slowly. The last time she’d hidden in her closet was when she had knocked Grandma’s cookie jar off the shelf and it had broken all over the kitchen floor. She had felt real bad then—kind of like now.
“Annie,” Mother called from the hallway, “are you working on your talk?”
Annie groaned and pulled the closet door shut. Almost as soon as she did, the door opened and Mother looked down at her. “Annie, what are you doing in the closet?”
“I’m just thinking. Maybe I should ask Sister Haslam to have somebody else give a talk about fathers.”
Mother sat down next to the closet and smiled at Annie. “Are you embarrassed because Daddy isn’t a member of the Church?”
Annie pressed her hands against her eyes and tried to swallow the lump in her throat. “No, I don’t think so. But Sister Haslam talks about us getting baptized by our dads, and when the kids talk about what their families did at the ward party, I feel left out.”
Mother stared out the window for a long time, then said, “Annie, the other kids just don’t know your dad very well. Why don’t you tell them about him in your talk?”
Annie sat up. “Should I talk about where Daddy works or about the games that we play?”
Mother smiled. “Annie, you talk about whatever makes your dad special to you.” Mother stood up and left Annie to think about it.
Annie leaned back against the closet wall. She pulled an old canvas shoe out from under her leg. As she tossed it in the corner, she saw the water stains on it and smiled, remembering that she had worn it the last time she and Dad had gone fishing.
“I know what I’ll talk about!” Annie exclaimed. She went to her desk and printed “My Dad’s Shoes” in big letters at the top of a sheet of paper. Then she hurried to her parents’ bedroom and opened the closet door. She dropped to her knees and studied the shoes scattered there, then picked up a pair of worn suede ones and carried them back to her bedroom.
On Sunday morning, when Annie woke up, she heard the birds chirping outside her window. She carefully dressed in the clothes that she had laid out the night before, then hurried downstairs to breakfast.
Dad was cooking pancakes and telling Mother about a book that he had read.
“Hi, hon,” Dad said when he saw Annie. “Your mom said that you’re going to give a talk today and that I should ask you what it’s about.”
Annie smiled. “My talk is called ‘My Dad’s Shoes.’”
Dad winked at Mother as he plopped a pancake onto Annie’s plate. “‘My Dad’s Shoes,’ huh? That sounds pretty interesting. Do you have time to tell me at least a part of it before you go to church?”
“Nope. I want you to hear it all at once.” Annie took a big bite of pancake covered with blueberry syrup.
“Well,” Dad responded with a smile, “I guess I’d better put on my tie and jacket and come with you then.”
As soon as Annie had finished her breakfast, it was time to go to church. She ran up to her room and carefully tucked her talk notes into a paper sack. Later, when it was her turn to talk in Primary, she carried her paper bag to the pulpit, smiled at Mom and Dad, and took out her notes—and Dad’s old leather shoes.
“This is a pair of my dad’s shoes,” Annie began. “They’re old now, but once they were new.
“My dad first wore these shoes to work at the hardware store. He helps people find the supplies that they need. He likes people, and he works very hard to help them get just the right things.”
Annie could see her mother smiling in the back row.
“As these shoes got older, Dad wore them around home and when he helped Mom and me shop for groceries. He wore them when he took Mom and me out for ice-cream cones on my birthday, and he wore them when he delivered cookies to our new neighbors.
“Then these shoes got even older.” Annie held the shoes up again for everyone to see.
“Now he mostly wears them to do chores. He wears them when he mows the lawn. But he doesn’t mow just our lawn—he mows the lawn of the lady across the street too. She’s an older lady who lives all alone. My dad really takes care of her. He mows her lawn during the summer and shovels her driveway in the winter.
“My dad wears these shoes when we go camping. He helps me toast my marsh-mallows just right. He lays out my sleeping bag. When Dad is around, I’m not afraid of the dark or of anything.”
Annie smiled as she turned the shoes around on the podium.
“My dad wears these shoes to my baseball games. He never misses one of my games. He always cheers when I hit the ball and get to a base. And if I don’t do very well, he pats me on the shoulder and tells me a funny joke on the way home.
“Best of all, Dad gives me hugs and kisses. I love him very much, and I’m thankful that Heavenly Father gave my dad to me.”
As Annie sat down, a glance at her dad’s face told her he felt exactly the same way about her.