The way my mother’s choice of shoes has shifted through the course of forty-something years is a story of its own. When I was small, Mom had three categories of shoes: casual shoes, shoes that fell from grace, and fancy shoes. Her casual shoes were moccasins, oxfords, simple wedges, and sometimes, kitten heels. She wore them to the bank, restaurants, or the movies. The shoes that fell from grace were, in truth, her worn-out everyday shoes that had almost reached the end of their lives. She was prepared to sacrifice them. Those were the ones she quickly slipped on to go to the small grocery store around the corner on a day when it rained cats and dogs.
Then, there were the fancy shoes for special occasions. Those were the slingbacks, d’orsays, ankle straps, stilettos, peep-toes, and scarpins. Some of the pairs also had a matching purse. Remember the tiny, elegant purses of the sixties? She still loved and used them. The fancy shoes were for special occasions like wedding ceremonies, engagement parties, the New Year’s Eve, visits to relatives during important religious holidays, tea parties with old school friends, or when going to a concert with Dad.
The pair I adored the most was hidden behind the boxes in the lower closet in her bedroom: the beige-brown snakeskin shoes. I remember turning the key and opening the closet door as quietly as possible each time my mother had a neighbor over for coffee. That pair must have been one of her cherished treasures as she kept it in a black velvet drawstring bag while the other shoes didn’t have posh casings.
My tiny feet would slip into the gorgeousness, and I’d walk up and down the bedroom enchanted by my own image in the mirror on the wall. My feet barely stayed inside the peep-toe opening, and the shoes dangerously bent midway right where my heels touched the expensive leather. I would play in them as long as I could before my mother caught me. Often, I would be so buried in my fantasy world that I wouldn’t hear her come in and would jump out of my skin when she yelled, “Take them off immediately! You’re going to destroy them!”
I think my mother also had a pair of black knee-high boots, but I don’t think she owned or wore any sneakers or flip-flops to this day. I can’t even picture her wearing either. On the other hand, back then, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine her wearing the only kind of shoes she prefers these days: comfortable shoes.
After sixty, comfort and safety became her priorities. But it was after my Dad’s sudden passing that she lost the urge to look beautiful or stylish. Nowadays she wears black, brown or dark blue loafers in the winter, and tan, black, or brown orthopedic slingbacks in the summer.
I once asked her if she ever missed wearing her fancy high heels. She looked at her comfy black loafers that had retained the imprint of her feet, their hollow shape like a metaphorical vessel for her psyche at Third Age. She said, “I miss the days I used the wear those fancy shoes. Still, I’m grateful for my loafers.”
“Take off your shoes-
You’re on barefoot beach.
Relax in the sunshine-
Broken only by trees.”
— GIORGE LEEDY
YOUR WRITING PROMPT:
Today, write about the shoes.
You could describe a specific pair of shoes one of your parents wore, or a pair you once had. You could also write about the shoes a young, loved one in your family used to wear and the memories they bring back. I’ve known people who had their toddler’s shoes plated with silver to keep a lasting memory of their child’s first steps. Maybe that’s something to write about. Or write about shoes as a metaphor. For example, are you comfortable in your own shoes? Whose shoes would (or wouldn’t) you like to be in?
Write about what comes to your mind instantly and effortlessly.
P.S.: This writing prompt is from the 4th week of my mini memoir class Tiny Memoirs: Five Trips Down Memory Lane, which has inspired hundreds of women to write and publish evocative personal pieces. Sign up today and enjoy writing at your own pace from the comfort of your home.