My neighbor, Lynda, asked me, “Won’t you ever run out of things to write about?” I answered, “Not a chance.”
I’ve lived sixty-five years. I don’t remember the first three. I don’t consciously remember every second of the following sixty-two either. But I’m finding, as I write, more and more of my lifetime experiences are bubbling into my gray matter. One memory unearths another, long-buried, which subsequently dredges up something else.
Today, while meditating, I suddenly found my mind centered on shoes. Shoes? Yes, shoes. Shoes I have loved. Shoes I have hated. Shoes I wore to prom, for my weddings, the red shoes I got in first grade.
I was so proud of those red shoes. The first day of school I hung my feet in the aisle between rows of desks, hoping all the kids were admiring them. Finally, I tucked my red-shoe-clad tootsies under my desk. When I glanced down to marvel at them I noticed a puddle of wet rolling toward my beloved red shoes. The girl in front of me had peed her pants. In the knick of time, I was able to lift my feet before beautiful crimson footwear got urine soaked.
A Facebook friend, Linda, commented on this post. “Pilnick’s, right?” Yes! That was the Newark, Delaware shoe store where we all shopped. Pilnicks had a shoe fitting Fluoroscope. An x-ray machine for the feet. It was jazzy and I loved standing on it.
I also had red rain boots. A friend, Jackie, had white ones. I remember the two of us tramping through rain drenched gutters, making enormous splashes. Our red and white rubber-clad feet never got a bit wet.
For dress up, we wore black Mary Jane’s. Mine were always handed down from older sister Marilyn.
In High School, Bass Weejuns were the popular choice of the day. They came in several styles. Tassel Weejuns. Penny loafer Weejuns. Fringe Weejuns. I had all at one point or another. The tricky thing with Weejuns was breaking them in. New ones would leave the wearer hobbling for weeks. But the pain was inconsequential compared to the need to fit in. I also had a pair of saddle shoes. All shoes were worn with knee socks. Preferred brands: John Meyer of Norwich and Villager. Plus we wore A-line skirts or kilts with large pins, rolled at the waist to be impossibly short.
In the late sixties, Scholl’s exercise sandals were invented. Supposedly one could get beautifully toned legs simply by hiking around wearing them. I loathed exercise but wanted toned legs. I bought blue Scholls. Groovy.
In 1969, when I started college, styles changed radically. Gone were the loafers and saddle shoes. Forget Villager and John Meyer. I began to wear bell bottoms, later coupled with Kalso Earth Shoes. The company claimed many people reported Earth Shoes eased chronic foot and body problems. On April 1st, 1970 — coinciding with the first Earth Day — the first “Kalsø Earth Shoes” store opened in the United States. The Earth Shoes had a weird sole, with the thickest part being under the ball of the foot. It then sloped down to a slimmer heel. They felt funny to walk in. But I wore them anyway. Again, fitting in trumped comfort.
I had a college friend, Tina, whose parents threw frequent, fancy cocktail parties. Tina’s mother, Eleanor, was elegant and enormously creative. She thought it would be a clever touch to have Tina and I serve appetizers, clad in tight little hot pants, and white vinyl go-go boots.
We did. The old men loved it. Come to think of it those “old” men were probably younger than I am today.
Here is a favorite poem:
by Frida Wolfe
New shoes, new shoes,
Red and pink and blue shoes.
Tell me, what would you choose,
If they’d let us buy?
Buckle shoes, bow shoes,
Pretty pointy-toe shoes,
Strappy, cappy low shoes;
Let’s have some to try.
Bright shoes, white shoes,
Like some? So would I.
Flat shoes, fat shoes,
That’s the sort they’ll buy.
This poem must be read aloud, using a sing-song joyful voice for the first three stanzas. The last stanza the reader should adopt a loud, angry, woe-is-me tone. Go forth and memorize this. Recite it the next time you go shoe shopping.