Lessons From Summer Shoes
This is a piece I wrote in response to a writing prompt from the Red Dress Society. Participants were asked to write about shoes and connected them — in some way — to summer. This post is what was born….
I have this freakin’ awesome pair of brown leather Frye boots.
I got them in 1985, before I went to college.
They cost $172.00.
I remember holding my breath as the cashier took all my bills and slipped them into the register.
When she handed me the bag, I thought I might throw-up.
That first semester I walked around campus with bloody heels, praying my investment would eventually pay off.
I’d dreamed of soft chocolate boots, like the couches the people I’d babysat for owned.
But my new boots were stiff and unyielding.
Those suckers took forever to break in.
Somewhere along the way, they stopped hurting.
And when I wear them now, someone always admires my kicks and asks me where I got them.
I like to watch their faces when I say I got them in a shoe store that closed in 1989.
Ten years ago, I promised myself that if I ever found a similar pair in black, I would buy them – price-be-damned.
Recently, I was not shopping for shoes when I saw the sister pair to my old brown Fryes: tall black boots with a buckle.
I looked at the bottom of the sole to find the price tag and sucked in my breath.
It’s always been hard for me to spend money on myself.
“You’ll have those forever,” said the well-dressed saleswomen who handed me an oversized white box.
I slipped the boots over my stockings and took a few steps.
Omigosh. They. Hurt. So. Much.
I found a chair and tugged them off.
“What do you think?” the saleswoman asked.
What did I think?
I thought only a crazy person would buy boots at that price that were that uncomfortable.
My old boots had been awful, too.
It had taken years to get them to a place where I could call them comfortable.
But they have been my signature footwear for decades.
So I held my breath as the cashier scanned my credit card.
Because they cost a lot more than they did in 1985.
And I brought them home.
And while my new boots look freakin’ awesome, I’m back to bloody heels and Band-Aids.
Right now, I’m faking it.
Pretending every step doesn’t hurt.
I have to believe that eventually these boots will be right.
Because sometimes having something worthwhile means enduring a little pain.
Ask a newly published author. Or any woman who has given birth.
Have you ever made an expensive purchase that you fretted over? What was it? How’d it turn out?
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This week the directions were to write a piece using the idea of money as inspiration — in under 450 words. I did it in 419.
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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My son has these ridiculous shoes. They came to us as hand-me-downs from friends whose son who never wore them. Apparently, the sneakers were custom-made for our friends’ son, but he
exhibited some kind of advanced fashion sense and never wore them.
Because they are kind of ludicrous.
I mean, they are blood-red, white and royal blue.
Anyway, my son fences. (No, he does not steal. He is a saber fencer.) And last weekend, his foot suddenly didn’t fit into his fencing sneakers. (How does that happen? Friday, good. Saturday, not so good?) Anyway, one hour before the big tournament, all we had were the clown shoes. Monkey tried them on and they fit. Like a glove. (Okay, that’s a terrible mixed metaphor. They fit like a pair of fabulously comfortable pair of
whacked-out clown shoes.)
Thrilled, Monkey immediately ran upstairs and grabbed an ancient pair of unworn royal blue soccer socks. (You know, to match.)
And he kicked ass. (And by kicking ass, I mean he did better than he ever has before: He did not win, but he did not come in last place either.)
Meanwhile, and perhaps more importantly, everyone commented on his shoes.
And Monkey (who tends not to be an attention whore like his mother) actually liked the attention.
Those wigged out kicks gave my boy a little swagger.
Frankly, the patriotic Nikes seemed to be a constant and very visual reminder that he needs to move his feet.
Which is something his coach
often reminds him that he forgets to do.
As stupid as it sounds, the clown shoes made for a great weekend moment.
Of course, now we have to go to the mall.
You know. To buy sneakers.
Tell me about that one ridiculous piece of clothing to which you were very attached as a kid. Or tell me about something you have to tackle on your to do list! 😉
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