43 summers of shoes
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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