I vividly remember boarding a bus and riding downtown to shop for clothing and household items with my mom. It was a really big deal to go there and spend the day. My mother dressed up for the occasion and insisted that I wear my Sunday best as well. We walked along Main Street visiting various shops to find the best deals on the things that we needed, but visiting the Foley’s department store was always our ultimate goal.
My mother usually paid cash for all of her purchases, but now and again she used her Foley’s charge card if she found something exceptional that strained her budget just a bit. She would take a little embossed metal plate out of her purse and hand it to the cashier. The clerk placed a layer of paper and carbon paper on a flat surface with my mother’s metal plate on top. Then she pulled a lever that imprinted my mom’s information on the receipt, which Mama then signed.
I was a veteran shopper from the get go, but I had trouble with my growing feet so my mother always insisted that I wear orthopedic style shoes. That meant that my choices came down to a variety of ugly oxfords they made me feel clunky and unattractive even as a little girl. I longed for loafers and cute flats like so many of my friends wore. Mama would insist that she was only making sure that my feet grew properly and she predicted that I would one day thank her for her diligence.
When I was a teen a beautiful air conditioned mall had opened near my home. By then I had asserted myself and convinced my mother that I no longer needed the shoes that kept my feet in good form. Instead I enjoyed using the money from my summer jobs to purchase the most stylish shoes available. Thus began my love affair with shoes. I simply could not get enough of them.
Back then the mall that I frequented had an annual Moonlight Madness sale in which every single store participated. People would come from all over town to find treasures marked down to rock bottom prices. I went every year for as long as I can remember and I most often hunted for shoes. I purchased so many varieties of shoes that I began to feel like Imelda Marcos, the infamous woman who owned hundreds of different kinds of footwear.
I wore stiletto heels, boots, sandals, flats of every color. I reveled at compliments that I received not only for my shoes, but also for my feet. I had nice trim ankles and perfectly formed toes. It never occurred to me that my mother’s efforts to keep my feet growing properly were the reason for my good fortune. I only knew how wonderful it felt to be freed from the ugly shoes of my childhood.
About halfway through my career as a teacher my feet began to fail me. I would end each day with aches and pains so horrible that I felt as though I could barely walk. I ended up resorting to wearing a hideous pair of oxfords that made the ones I wore as a child look trendy. They kept me going pain free all day long, so I wore them with a stiff upper lip even though I felt ghastly in them. I saved my huge collection of fabulous pumps and strappy sandals and boots for special occasions when I would not be on my feet for hours, and I still looked so fabulous in them.
Time looks its toll on my feet. The day came when I had to give away all of my high heels. After that I found my flat sandals hurt my feet as well. One by one the cute shoes in my closet became too much to bear. I became an ardent customer of brands like Clarks whose shoes often reminded me of old ladies and women lacking style.
It was as though I heard my mother’s voice warning me that I would one day regret not taking care of my feet. By then I had banged up and broken toes, fractured one of my feet, and endured bouts of plantar fasciitis. I had worn casts and boots and attended physical therapy sessions. All the while I wondered which of those really cute shoes had been the culprits in wearing down my feet.
I still have a thing for shoes. I see fabulous footwear in the stores and salivate like Pavlov’s dog. I imagine how great they might look on my feet with just the right dress or pair of slacks. Then I remember that I can’t wear such things anymore without enduring intense pain. I accept that I must wear clunky hiking shoes when touring London or spend most of the trip sitting in the hotel. I wear my arch support sandals and oxfords that are of the kind that only an older woman would think of wearing. My feet feel great in them and I am able to walk for miles. I have given in and accepted my fate while still dreaming of the times when I seemed to have million dollar feet. Mama would be happy that I finally accepted the reality that I need to take proper care of the part of my body that gets me around. I suppose that it was always inevitable that she would be proven right. Oh, but how still love fabulously cute shoes!