Memoir Summer

Lessons From Summer Shoes

photo by rouzeh @

Once upon a time, a November baby met July. The baby’s feet were small and bare and, as she crawled across spiky grass to the place where the lawn met road, she crouched low to pop tar bubbles with the tip of one tiny index finger.

One hot July, the little girl screamed as her mother buckled a new pair of white strappy-somethings firmly onto her feet. And no matter how many people told her how lucky she was to have such fine shoes, she knew she must have been very bad. To her the word sandals always sounded like a lie: a fancy name for prison.

Another July, the girl slipped into a shimmery yellow leotard and jazz shoes. While she was on-stage, she was confident in her dancer’s limbs. And when the audience clapped its approval, she knew her body was moon beautiful.

One July, the teenage girl watched her mother slip into a pair of rainbow-colored high heels. She saw how a 45° angle could transform a woman’s legs, instantly make them longer and leaner, and she decided that, one day, she would have a pair of magical shoes in her closet.

One July, the young woman dressed up in silky lingerie — thigh high stockings, a corset and ridiculously high red platform pumps: a last-ditch effort to make a man she wanted notice her. When he wouldn’t leave his piano, she threw one shiny stiletto at his head and realized it was time for her to live alone.

Later that same July, the young woman saved up all her money to buy a pair of distressed leather boots. As she straddled the back of a horse, her heels pressed into silver stirrups. And despite the fact that the world was shifting beneath her, she felt completely in control, holding the reins of that bridle, cantering into the darkness beneath a canopy of green and gold.

One July, the woman found herself in New Orleans, wearing a sundress with sneakers, and holding hands with the man she knew would one day be her husband.

One July, pregnant and hopeful, the woman learned sacrifice. As her ankles swelled into fat sausages, she could only wear flip-flops. Soon she would be someone’s mother; she understood her body was for rent. And she was grateful the feisty tenant who had taken control of the premises only had a few weeks left on his lease.

Over forty July later, that November baby found herself barefoot on the neighbors’ lawn. The soles of her feet were filthy, but as she turned cartwheels, she realized she owned the magical shoes she’d always wanted. She understood now that the shoes weren’t magic. It was the everything else around her that was positively succulent, that she carried an entire orchard of ripe peaches inside her, that she lived from joy to joy, as if death were nowhere in the background.

What do you remember about July?

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56 thoughts on “Lessons From Summer Shoes

    1. It was the writing prompt! We were supposed to use shoes and link them to summer. Actually, I don’t think I did a very good job. And I didn’t even make the deadline.

      I am actually a sneakers & sundresses in the summer kind of girl. 😉

    1. Okay, at the risk of being redundant: supurbly written (supurbly hasn’t been used yet, has it?)!

      As for a favorite July memory…drive-in movies and “camping out” in mt back yard and not making it through the night–ever, because my attack cat would jump on top of the canvas tent and scare my sisters and me.

  1. Such a delight to read! July is the month I first visited Los Angeles, a decade ago, and thus the month which’ll always mark the turning point between my being absolutely-a-forever-Eugenean and my being a future Angeleno.

    1. Kim, I don’t know Li-Young Lee. Is that line similar to something he/she wrote. Wait, I’ll Google it! 😉

      I found this:

      There are days we live
      as if death were nowhere
      in the background; from joy
      to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
      from blossom to blossom to
      impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

      That is cool! I had not heard of this person before. And still. There it is. There we are.

      1. This one’s easy! I remember a July of 1990. The temp was 110 and I was 700 months pregnant (actually I was 7 days overdue)! Finally, in the wee hours of a July 25th morning my water broke. We rushed (and I do mean rushed) to the hospital where I gave birth to my second, beautiful daughter less than 30 minutes after arriving. Do you know how to keep a doctor from giving you an unneeded episiotomy? Push a baby out and make him drop his surgical scissors in order to catch it!
        I was told that if I ever went for baby #3, that I would need to camp out near a hospital the last month!

      2. THAT is an awesome story! Congratulations, proud momma. Happy b’day to Baby #2. Monkey is an August baby. I remember being eleventy-bajillion months pregnant, too — in that heat!

        That’s when I started moving the furniture around. 😉

  2. My favorite July memory has got to be lazy evenings spent hanging out with friends on my boat(s). Actually I shall be replicating my favorite July memory this weekend. Can’t wait.

  3. What an excellently neat post! Enjoying the transitions your shoes made as your life transitioned, too. I hope that fancy red stiletto punctured the piano man in the back of his head (new crime show, anyone?). At least you found someone who appreciates your efforts!

    July memories – include what my sister and I refer to as “Rogers City kind of days.” That city being up north where family lived, and it could feel like 90 degrees in the sun and 70 in the shade, the water was always ice cold but never deterred us from swimming in it until we got older and suddenly developed an internal body thermometer. Days spent at the community pool where we were elbow to elbow with other chldren whose desperate mothers wanted five minutes of rest from the incessant “I’m bored” chant. Walking to the newly built 7-11 to get a slurpee and having it gone before we were even halfway home again. Watching the summer storms break the heat wave and bringing us back to cooler, more pleasant summer weather.

  4. Lovely piece, Renee. All of my New Mexican Julys are showing up on my old dermis and those queer looking brown spots remind me of playing in the sprinkler, riding bikes, rollerskating, and playing chase around the neighborhood until dark. How odd that aesthetically displeasing patches remind me of the best times in my life. It ALMOST makes them bearable. 😉

    1. At 43, I have a whole bunch of wrinkles that my husband says wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t spent so much time out in the sun every summer. Is he kidding me? Best days of my life.

      That said, I’ll trade you seventeen forehead wrinkles and a bunch of crow’s feet for two age spots. 😉

  5. Renee, you are one heck of a writer to keep me, a member of the male faction, totally wrapped up in a story that revolves around shoes. Loved it!

    My fondest memory of July is back when I was a kid and in the middle of the summer, my dad, a salesman, would take me with him on a one day journey making some sales calls. Sure, I spent some time alone in the car, usually reading a book, but the time we had travelling, talking, stopping for lunch, seeing farms, cities and small towns are things I’ll never forget. This annual adventure from sunrise until we returned home for supper was the highlight of my summer. My dad’s passed on and every time I’m out making a few of my own sales calls in summer, I can’t help but think back to how, with just one day, he made my summer special.

    1. Brian:

      You are a patient man. Hopefully the shoes were kind of invisible.

      I like the image of you — as a child — traveling with your father. That’s a lot of special together time. I don’t know how many sons get that kind of time with their fathers these days. It sounds like such a simple thing, but I love how you returned how — together — for supper. To table together. Thank you for sharing that memory with me.

  6. I miss sleeping late all summer. I can never sleep late anymore, even on days when my schedule permits me. I remember sleeping late on so many summer mornings and then waking up with the realization that I had nowhere I needed to be.

    1. Ahhhh, Greatsby, the not needing to be anywhere. And the not being needed. (Although, sometimes I woke up and I needed to sneak back somewhere because I was not where I was supposed to be.) But that was good, too. 😉

  7. July. Summer, really (because those months all run together). Lightning bugs. Barefeet. Stepping in stickers. Going to Grandma’s house. Playing dress-up in the stifling rooms upstairs. Collecting roly-polies. Learning from my cousin how to properly use the word “literally” for extra emphasis. Fighting over who got to name their doll Diamond, Jewel, or Crystal. My dad’s giant water gun. Running through the sprinkler and pretending that it was the door to a magical fairy land. Swings. Endless amounts of sunscreen. Continual sunburns.The smell of outdoors. The hope of rain. The fear of drought. Popsicles and ice cream. And many other memories I will never be able to explain. 🙂

  8. Gorgeous writing, Renee! 🙂
    Memories of July? I can rarely seem to place memories into month-slots anymore. I’ll have a think, if I come up with anything I’ll return!

  9. You have a such a gorgeous way with words- I was mesmerized! I loved the thread of July and growing up. Really beautifully done.

    I’m glad to be visitng from the RDC!

  10. I used all of my might to jump up for a shot to reach the skyscraper basketball hoop. I realized this was a fruitless task given my puny size. I decided to go back inside the house, the wind blowing my scraggly hair into my disappointed face. Once inside, an advertisement greeted me, picturing tall athletes dunking a basketball. The ad focused on their feet. The shoes had a mean look to them, as if they could tear the ground they walked on. It put my current, practically glowing white shoes to shame. As the athletes flew the air, a black arc was created, accompanied by small white swirly lines on the sides of them. They looked like the ripples in a high tide ocean. I turned the TV off and fell asleep, frustrated with my inferior pair of shoes.

    The next morning I went shopping with my mother. To my surprise, I spotted the pair from the ad the night before, high on the shelf. The shoes looked ginormous from a distance, possibly twice my size. I reached up to grab them and get a better look; from that second on, I was sold. Leaving the store with the current pair that I was wearing was not an option.

    Once home, I took a direct route from the car to the garage to grab a basketball. I noticed that my feet appeared three sizes larger now. I dribbled the ball for a minute, and looked down at my feet. My shoes still had the fresh-out-of-the-factory smell. With a determined stride, I walked up the driveway to the hoop and shot the ball. It curved into the wet grass. I could not afford to stain these shoes so soon. I went to get another ball from the garage and approached the hoop again. The difference was this time I jumped. My legs felt like springs with the added support of the shoe. For that split second, I could imagine what flying was like. I never saw the hoop face-to-face in the way I did then. I extended my arms and made a basket, without the help of the backboard or rim. I finally knew what it was like to hear SWISH, and I got used to that noise thanks to the shoes. Or was it just boosted confidence?

  11. My favorite pair of shoes are every pair of shoes I own. From my bright red stilettos to my big fuzzy boots. Every shoe I have in my closet is something important to me, even the ones I’ve only worn once.

    I have my tan strapped back wedges from graduation. Even though they were only worn that one day, I leave them sitting in my closet. My puppy chewed some holes in them, but I’ll still keep them. They remind me of that breezy summer morning and going to my high school for the last time. Surrounded by friends I knew for years with wet dew underneath my soles and the fresh smell in the air, a perfect moment.

    I even love my cheap fuzzy black boots, even though they’re really old and a few sizes too big. They keep me warm in the winter, like having heating lamps on my feet at all times. They aren’t always reliable though, I’ve taken a few spills in them. I might have slipped in them once or twice, maybe a few more times than that. They are the warmth I need in the winter cold and I wouldn’t toss them out for anything.

    Out of all the shoes I own there is only one pair I wear everyday and love more than any other. My authentic Low-Top Vans: the best pair of sneakers I have ever owned. They’re made from canvas so they have a weird but nice feel to them. They’re light and small so I feel barefoot all the time. The only downfall is they wear and tear pretty quickly. But that just means I get to buy a new pair!

  12. My favorite shoes… Not really sure if they even exist. Shoes are not my thing. I go through shoes like a dog goes through a chew-toy. I admit they do protect my feet against hazards such as broken glass and those little pebbles that for some reason hurt so badly when you step on them. Yet I grow continuously tired of hearing that scraping sound of the soles against the concrete and that irritating sound of wet shoes rubbing against a smooth surface. The smell of a new pair of shoes is quite pleasing but, unfortunately, that smell does not last long and soon I can practically taste the sweat in my shoes. Without shoes, my feet grow stronger, healthier, and able to withstand more. I am even able to run faster. If shoes somehow suddenly disappeared, I would be okay with that.

      1. I’ve been thinking of writing a post about barefoot running around the anniversary of last year’s half-marathon . . . most of which I ran barefoot.

        I know this’ll be a shocker, but cold, wet, uneven pavement is much harder to run on than dry, even pavement! If I run barefoot again, it’s not going to be in Portland in October. 😉

  13. Blue and black high-top sneakers with black laces are my favorite pair of kicks. They’re not just any boring shade of blue. They’re turquoise blue, and they really stand out from the crowd of typical sneakers. Whenever I wear them, I’m on top of the world. When I play basketball with them, I’m in the zone. It’s tough to beat me in a game of 21 when I’m wearing these bad boys. They’re not just for playing sports. These sneakers have been on me when I go to parties, visit friends, or just hang out. People notice them right away and give me compliments about them. Everybody has one pair of special shoes. Mine are my blue and black high-top sneakers.

  14. I never really owned a pair of shoes that were my favorite. It has always been difficult for me to keep my sneakers in good condition. A lot of people treat their footwear like newborn babies, always watching and caring for them. My shoes end up looking like something out of a war movie, as if they were on the feet of a soldier fighting in Vietnam. Their soles become so worn out that walking barefoot would be a more comfortable alternative.

    I once bought a pair of all white Adidas in the middle of winter. Let’s just say they didn’t hold up very long. They soon became all salty and gross from tracking through the snow. The salt ate at the color of my shoes like acid. They soon had a yellow tint to them, which could possibly be the most unappealing color for a pair of sneakers. Once the color went, their condition went next. The backs of the heels caved in from where I would try to just slip them on if I was in a hurry.

    My white sneaker wearing days are numbered and hopefully someday I will find a pair that I won’t have to ship off to ‘Nam.

  15. Their clicks can be heard from a distance away. So loud and intimidating, they announce their arrival as they enter a room: bringing a sense of power to whoever dares to slip them on their feet. The padding on the inside is comfortable enough to make her forget the numbing pain she will endure at the end of the day. She looks again at the box in doubt of her confidence. The scent of her perfume hits her, reminding her of the last time she wore the fiercely red showstoppers. Heads turned and she felt like a new woman. She wasn’t sure if she could handle it again, but it was worth the try.

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