Clink. Clank. Clunk. Clang.
“What’s that rattling sound?”
I sit very still in the circle, afraid to move, afraid I will rattle again and everyone will discover it’s the gravel stuck in the heel of my cheap shoes.
“Hey, your shoes are coming apart and you got gravel stuck in the bottom.”
Quick tip: If you don’t want anyone to know your shoes are worn, don’t sit with a group of kids Indian style with your shoe heels exposed…tough lesson for an eight year old.
“Why did your mom buy you such cheap shoes?” This comes from the same friend who exposes me to the other kids. The others seem to have moved on. I’m scarlet faced as I have no answers to her probing and embarrassing questions. I glance down at her bright orange Converse shoes and wish I had a pair.
That night I tell my mom the horrifying experience. She places the shoes in a paper bag and tells me to wear my old shoes until after my doctor‘s appointment. I am baffled because I am not sick. She explains she bought me cheap shoes so she can show the doctor how my feet turn and wear my shoes down. I look at my feet. They look fine to me. I pull my shoes out of the bag and examine them. I notice the sides of my shoes on the inner portions (insteps?) turn inward, almost as if my arches have fallen. Still, I think I walk fine. She tells me I might have to get corrective shoes to fix my feet. I shudder at the thought of brace-like contraptions on my feet. I dream of Cinderella shoes though I know that will definitely not be what I get, even if the doctor says my feet are fine.
It seems like only a few days and Mama and I are off to the city. We have to drive to a huge parking lot and take the bus over to the university. The bus ride alone makes me nervous, and then we have to cross the busy street with college students and working professionals clustered about. We are ushered from one waiting room and examining room to another. Each time I have to strip to an embarrassing nakedness of “underpants only” and be touched, poked, and prodded by a team of doctors and students. I am instructed to walk, bend, turn, reach, and jump. I want to cry. I hate this place more than any place I’ve ever gone. And this is only the first of many visits.
Then my mother and I head over to the “expensive” shoe shop. It’s one we can’t afford to shop at; one I’ve only walked by and glanced in the window. She hands the prescription to the salesman and he measures my feet. He places the box on the floor and pulls out the ugliest shoe I’ve ever seen. I slowly die inside. I can’t believe they expect me to wear these horrendous brown leather oxfords…they look like old man shoes, expensive old man shoes. To my dismay, my mother makes me wear them from the store. She even has the salesperson throw out my old shoes. I nearly die. The cashier tells my mother the price, and she nearly dies. I actually hear her breath catch in her throat and I wonder if she will ever exhale. I remember they cost forty-two dollars which was a lot of money back then for a pair of shoes. Heck, my mother probably paid less for a week of groceries.
Not only am I expected to wear them, I must wear them daily. I even have to wear them with dresses. I have to run in them and play kick ball with them on. There are absolutely no exceptions. I am reminded of their cost. I am told it is for my own good. I hate my life. I am the only one at school with “special shoes”. Yes, that’s what the grown ups called them. If they thought they were so dang special why didn’t they want to wear them?
I was the brunt of all jokes at school for the first day, and on occasion thereafter. It eventually turned to pity as the other girls were thankful they didn’t have to sport those “boy shoes” on their feet. I made it my goal to not let them slow me down. The only justice was that I still came in first or second in all the playground races. I roughed and scuffed those suckers (shoes) up! My mother was appalled at how I tore them up. They seemed less noticeable when the shine wore off. I don’t know who hated it more each time I had to get a new pair, me or my mother. Fortunately, I only had to wear corrective shoes for a year or two. In the meantime, my dad’s friend had a daughter who also had to wear “special shoes”. At least, hers were a pretty reddish burgundy color. Still, she and I spent many hours commiserating the sheer torture of having those ugly things on our feet. We both dreamed of patent leather Mary Janes and white canvas Keds like the other kids wore…we continued to dream as we donned our ugly boy shoes wherever our legs led us.
Needless to say, I had a real thing about shoes when my kids were little. I refused to buy them cheap television cartoon character shoes like many of the kids wore for play. I only purchased well made (yes, expensive) name brand shoes for my children. I hoped (and prayed) this would be enough to help their feet grow and form properly. I prayed they wouldn’t have to go through the pain I endured from other kids. This had plus and a minus side…my kids did grow up with nice feet; however they also now have expensive taste in shoes!
I also have a thing for pretty shoes. Still, I like functional. But I’m trying to make up for lost time…you do not want to know how many Keen Mary Jane shoes I own! So, yes I do own way more shoes than I need; especially considering the fact that I work from home and go barefoot unless I leave the house. I suppose some things from childhood haunt us forever….and don’t go judging me unless you were made to wear equally horrendous ugly brown leather oxfords!
Before you even ask; yes, I do donate shoes to Salvation Army at least twice a year. I go through my shoes and donate anything I haven’t worn. Dirt Man tried to convince me to donate a pair every time I purchase a new pair, but that just is not going to fly…besides he didn’t have to wear ugly “special shoes” when he was a kid so he isn’t allowed to judge me either!