Judge Not The Shoes


imagesDo I really have a shoe fetish? One of the definitions of fetish is “A course of action to which one has an irrational and obsessive commitment.” This morning when I sat down at my computer I thought to myself “Hmm…What shall I write about today?” As nothing whatsoever popped into my head I decided to shuffle through two dozen or so partially written pieces on a variety of topics which I had, for one reason or another, not completed. Sometimes I lose interest, sometimes I need to do some research on a few facts, and sometimes it just becomes too much of an emotional piece for me to continue. The older we get the more our emotional baggage sticks to us like barnacles on an aging ship, and who would want to hang around when someone is scraping away at barnacles anyway?

I looked through my collection of file cards, of memories of my growing up years, that I may want to write about some day. I moved on from there, as I knew that it would end up with me calling one or more of my siblings to check out dates and details, which often takes a good chunk of time. I love them all dearly but they’re all as wordy as I am and we love to talk. Cross checking my own memories of the facts with my seven siblings is generally a good idea when I’m writing shared family history. If I don’t do this then I may one day upset one or more of  them when I name the wrong one as Mom’s favourite. (Not gonna happen Mom! Remember? I promised!)… I remember watching a show once where a very manipulative mother privately told each of her children in turn  “You know you’re my favourite, but don’t tell the rest of them.” It made for great comedy on TV but I’m sure it would never happen in real life.

Finally, I ran across a draft of uncompleted work that started out with the line: “We were a very practical family with 30 pairs of shoes at our back door.” I wondered if I had written about this at some time in the past, so I did a word search through the 113 posts I have done since April 1, 2013. “Shoes” came up 26 times, but what was more significant was that there always seemed to be a tie-in to topics with an emotional impact. In Songs My Mother Sang Us, I wrote about my grandfather, an immigrant shoemaker during the Depression, dedicated to helping people as best he could. I touched on my own Dad, right before a funeral, having to glue the sole of one of his Sunday-best shoes back on, rather than buy new ones, because of our family’s lack of money, in  Rich or Poor? Dirty or Clean? . Then I wrote about how my mother had to throw her shoes on in a hurry, to rescue my little brother from a “sink hole”  in the back yard, in the post One of Our Family’s Dirty Stories. My painful first dating experience is covered in If The Shoe Fits;  and the arrival of the man I fell in love at first sight with, and then eventually married, is covered in the post First Date, to name just a few.

There is no doubt that shoes have been able to launch me to certain places coloured deeply with emotion, and they have led me to write some pieces that I am very proud of (as vain as that may sound) so I decided to finish the piece on the “30 pairs of shoes” that I had started a long time ago:

We were a very practical family with 30 pairs of shoes at our back door. One box of in-between sizes, that didn’t fit anyone at that particular moment, was tucked into the closet, as shoes were always passed on down the line.There were also boxes of boots on hand for when they were in season. Every one of us kids had practical school shoes made of leather, with simple buckles for the girls or laces for the boys. Then there were fancier church or dressing-up shoes for some, and also play or work shoes for all, depending on our ages. The white canvas running shoes we older girls and Mom wore a lot were run through the washer with hot water and bleach to keep them whiter than white, and the school and dress shoes were always polished. It was a job Dad did for all of us when we were young, but that each of us took on for ourselves when we were older.

In some ways we might have been considered shoe snobs at the time. We equated wearing spotless canvas shoes or polished leather shoes when in public as just plain decent behavior. It seemed to elevate our status in our own minds that we were being raised to care about such things as the state of our footwear. I’ve learned a lot since then. Sure, good grooming and a tidy appearance are important, but I’ve learned not to assume that it can be interpreted to mean very much. I have learned rather, as the old saying goes: “Don’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes!”

What about the “Boy’s” shoes of the female Wal-Mart clerk who purchased them simply because of their reduced price and her immediate need for more comfortable footwear after her first difficult week of standing on hard concrete all day? Or the paint-spattered ones of the guy who just finished doing eleven hours of work with only a ten minute break, trying to get a house painted and dried before the rain arrived?

What about the farmer’s shoes?— his second best pair that were previously the ones he wore for good? If he could afford proper work shoes he would have those on, as he passes you your bag of potatoes from the back of his pick-up truck at the market. It was a bountiful crop this summer so naturally the price has dropped to the basement. His purchase of new work boots will have to be postponed yet again.

Or that young guy who just got up from the bench press at the gym?… “Why is he just wearing street shoes for crying out loud?” you wonder to yourself. Then the soft clicking, when he bends his knees to sit at the next machine, causes you to observe a little more closely out of the corner of your eye. When he rises and walks by you suddenly realize that he has two artificial legs, and that the one that bends with a slight hesitation is an above knee prosthesis as well.

I’m at the gym working out too, and I’m proud of him and his efforts to stay fit. Our grown son, who wears whatever shoes he needs to, in order  to stay balanced*—our son who has picked himself up enough times from his first toddler steps until now to know what it feels like to be down, is the most compassionate non-judgemental person I know. I just wish I could have that same attitude in my own life a little more often than I do.

I ran across this quote by Michael Josephson which I would like to share:

To the barefoot man, happiness is a pair of shoes.

To the man with old shoes, it’s a pair of new shoes,

To the man with new shoes it’s more stylish shoes,

And of course, the fellow with no feet would be happy to be barefoot.

Measure your life by what you have, not by what you don’t

* double leg amputees usually have to wear only shoes with the same heel heights that their artificial legs were fitted to, so that they don’t pitch forward when they stand or walk. Changing shoes while wearing the prosthetics is difficult because of lack of flexibility in the artificial legs, so an understanding attitude as was demonstrated by our local YMCA is always greatly appreciated.


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