Shoes. Of all the things we wear, we need, one of the most difficult to come to terms with are shoes. When we’re young most types seem to fit. Sandals, high heels, walking shoes. On the whole they are necessary, practical, additions to our wardrobe. It is only when our feet get blisters or sprains that we give them a second thought. But now, when my poor feet have been undergoing wear and tear (perhaps more tear than otherwise), I realize they have been my faithful companions for over 90 years.
So while it is still February, I can’t wait for May when I can take out my sandals and as a sign of spring, of joy, can wiggle my toes, as I wrote in a letter to my mother.
I’ve never paid much attention to shoes, except that in my teens I had to learn to wear heels. And of course stockings, which meant garter belts or girdles. How things have changed. No one at the time had ever heard of panty-hose.
Did I have favorite shoes? Some people do and manage to wear the same shoes for years. At least if they’ve stopped growing. Then I have a friend who loves shoes and has any number to match the dresses she went dancing in. Perhaps that was why she was so delighted with the Metropolitan Museum miniatures of vintage shoes, Christmas decorations. I would bring back two or three for her every time I went to New York.
One step after another, one shoe after another. A regiment of shoes follows us as we walk through life. I can hear their clip clop now. How many shoes have we worn throughout our lives? Many were just plain working shoes, worn with heavy socks to keep our feet warm in winter. Summer meant sandals or we would even go barefoot, with the risk of stepping on a garter snake as I once did. Shoes kept our feet prisoners. Let me out, the poor toes would say. Especially if there were heels on the shoes. Thinking back I’m surprised my sister and I were allowed high heels. Generally chosen from the Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs, which we would spend hours perusing when they arrived in our rural mailbox.
Shoes. One takes them for granted. At least I did. I suppose I really only began to think of them when I got a summer job in a shoe factory, making bows. For ladies shoes of course. Men aren’t that frivolous.
Then I’ve also seen shoes used for other things besides encasing feet. They make great flowerpots. My father had his baby shoes metalized and they became ashtrays, which I found rather fitting. New shoes were something special for children. When my young son had to get a series of injections for his eyesight, I drew a shoe and divided it into sections, one for each injection.
I have had sandals fall apart as I walked, and there has always been the problem of my big American feet, for Italians still don’t realize that length is not all and that some feet are wider than others. Now in the morning when preparing to take those 10,000 daily steps, and deciding which shoe to wear, I pull out the pair I wore a year ago, and the one my sons think are disgraceful but which have been wedded to my feet, and the ones they gave me in hopes of making their mother more presentable. I try first one and then the other and laugh aloud as I look at the shoes scattered here and there around the bed and think of telling my sons they have a decipus, not simply an octopus, mother.
As long as I can walk, shoes will be part of my life.