The Shoes (Mother, May I?)

Ours is a family full of snake-feet women. What on most people are feet are on us, long, winding, toe-ended reeds. When Mom took my sister and me shopping for back-to-school shoes, the trips invariably ended up with her shaking her head back and forth and muttering “snake feet” while the saleswoman slid the width-measuring bar ever-inward and subsequently offered the lone pair of shoes that “might fit.”

Mom has the same feet, and her twin sisters too. My aunt Renee has something like a 11.5AA which is more like a pair of skis than feet (love you and your feet, Renee); suffice it to say that it’s hard for her to find shoes.

Despite the fact that it was once hard to find properly fitting shoes, it turns out that high heels and strappy sandals love snake feet, and in the years since those types of shoes replaced Keds, my inner Imelda Marcos has thrived.  

I love ballet and pointed-toe flats, my trusty TOMS –especially my Union Jacks and my map-of-New-Orleans special editions- and my worn in Reefs. I love slides and kitten heels, the occasional svelte wedge, versatile pumps, leather riding boots, impractical suede booties, sherpa-lined slippers and, back to them, towering stilettos.

At its least glam and most practical, a shoe is a protective support. It can help you run, provides arch support, and allows long walks on city streets or a meandering hike in the woods.

Shoes are also accessories, a relatively simple way to gussy up an outfit. I can never figure out how to wear vests or hats, and only after years of practice, have I come to understand scarves. But shoes? Put on a crisp pair of navy shorts, a trim white shirt and some flip-flops or sneakers, and you have a lovely summer uniform. Trade the flops or tennies for a colorful pair of silk-toppedor metallic leather sandals, and sister, you are a different person.

Let’s get back to heels. Oh, the passion I feel for them. A beautiful pair of heels is a magical transport to a different world. The higher the stiletto, the better, IF they’re well-crafted. That’s a big and important if, for ill-fitting heels are a death sentence.

When I shimmy into a dress, I start to feel both princess and festive. Bubbles inside of my core start to rise up, pushing their way excitedly to my surface: something fun is about to happen. Maybe you’ll dance, maybe you’ll clink flutes, maybe you’ll see a marvelous performance, maybe you’ll get kissed under the mistletoe.

When I slip on my heels, however, the maybes become truths. Those things will happen. I will dance the night away at my sister’s wedding, clinking flutes of cheers and Auguris over and over again. I will see my beloved Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet and I will see BC’s hair in an alley behind the theater where I waited like a teenaged-fangirl for him to come out and sign autographs. I do get kissed under the mistletoe and at midnight and all that jazz.

I am no longer a tired, pony-tailed mother unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry for the billionth time. I am a woman, ME, who is gleefully anticipating whatever fanciful moments are to come.

When I sink down later, tired and happy, and I undo the teeny straps that held these glass slippers to my feet, I marvel at the craftsmanship that goes into a good pair of shoes. They’re forms of art, really. Wearable, transportive art.