Throughout history, people have understood the “American dream” through a number of objects – a house, a car, or maybe a passport. For Texas singer-songwriter Rachel Laven’s grandmother, though, it was a pair of Lucchese cowboy boots.
Laven says her grandmother came to America in 1953 to join her husband, who had traveled to the U.S. a few years earlier to find work and buy a home. They came from Holland and brought their four children with them.
Her grandmother was trained as a Montessori educator back in Holland and helped establish several Montessori schools across the country. Her grandfather was originally an architect, but all of his paperwork was destroyed during World War II. Laven says her grandmother’s work as a Montessori teacher helped the family establish itself in their new home. When the pair decided to move to Texas, Laven’s grandmother had just one request. She wanted a pair of Lucchese boots.
“My grandfather rushed right out to buy her a pair,” Laven says. “That kind of became a symbol that they had finally made it.”
It turns out that success runs deep in the Laven family. This past year, Laven quit her day jobs to pursue a music career. Since then, she’s been touring a folk and country music set around the country and in Europe.
When Laven was 15, her grandmother gave her the boots.
“She was very majestic and I really looked up to her. And I saw her as a very strong figure in my life, but I didn’t really know her that well,” Laven says. “I think she gave them to me because I was the only grandchild that had big enough feet to wear them.”
To Laven’s surprise, the pair was a perfect fit.
“They were custom-made for her, and her feet, and they fit me perfectly, down to the way I kind of wiggle my feet to the sides,” Laven says. “It was kind of surreal.”
Laven says the experience brought the two women closer together.
“I think that was the most connected I ever felt with my grandmother,” Laven says.
Laven says the boots used to make a regular appearance onstage at her shows.
“They were just kind of a spiritual thing about my show,” Laven says. “I would sing the song about love and Luccheses and this pair of boots, and then be able to point to my boots and say, ‘These are them!’”
Laven says that over time, the leather has worn thin, so she doesn’t wear them often.
“But I still find myself slipping them on every once in awhile, just to feel the energy.”
Written by Rachel Zein.