No Shoes In The House

No Shoes In The House

by Michael Won


‘No Shoes In the House’

A greeting, a reminder, and sometimes, a command.

These words were an invitation to respect the cleanliness of my home - a space that my mom worked to keep neat and tidy. I followed this rule… most of the time. But like all rules, I made exceptions.

Leaving the house in a rush and then realizing that I left something behind was one of them… “Do I make myself more late and take my shoes off, or do I do the unthinkable?… Keep my shoes on and defile my home…” This was my weekly crisis as a teenager.

Sometimes I’d be a good son and respect the rules of my Korean household, but other times I chose to be reckless… I tracked the outside world, in. My shoes touched where only socks were meant to go. My mom always knew. No matter how quiet or discreet I thought I was, I was met with the phrase – “No shoes in the house!”


And even now, as I live with my partner in our own home, I still hear the echo of my mom’s words. It’s funny how such a mundane and mildly annoying rule can become so integral to who I am.

Being Korean American means a lot of things to me, and this is certainly one of them.

“No shoes in the house.”


As I spend the holidays with loved ones - cooking in overcrowded kitchens, eating at dining room tables, and lounging on couches - I’ll step into each space with gratitude.

From house to house - room to room - shoes on and shoes off…

A Memoir by Michael Won