Friday, May 1, 2009
Another early childhood shoe favorite of my parents was penny loafers. I still remember getting my first pair of penny loafers. Loafers have become one of my all time favorites, not really penny loafers, but the fun little suede loafers, or those really cute loafers with different animal prints on the top of the front of the shoe. I have always felt safe when I wear loafers…. it is much harder to trip or fall “off” loafers.
Over the years I have found shoe shopping a little easier when I am focused on loafers. I am not sure if it’s the success I had on my first loafer shopping trip, or if it’s the fact over the years they began to make wider shoes. I am going with my success on that special day with my dad.
Many years ago my dad took me on a “special” shoe shopping trip. It would be one of the best yearly journeys to Hofhimer’s to shop for new fall shoes. This particular year I was very excited and a little nervous. I was graduating from my saddle shoes but what would be next? What kind of new shoe would they have to fit my large wide foot?
I was a teenager who wore a size 9 D-E shoe. All my friends wore 6 and 7 size shoes. All kinds of thoughts were going through my head…Maybe my feet had stopped growing, or maybe I could just squeeze my feet into the shoe and suffer through, after all I was tough! On the outside I was optimistic, on the inside I was a wreck. I didn’t know if this trip would be any different from all the others. Well this trip was VERY different, we had a huge success; at least for many years I thought we had a very successful shopping experience.
When we arrived in the store we walked in, I walked over to the very stylish Etienne Aigner loafers. They were so pretty, the leather was soft, and it had the cutest little A on the loafer. The salesmen approached, I held up the perfect little size 5 Aigner loafers and proudly told him I wanted this one. He glanced at my dad, smiled and said ok, let’s see what size. I sat down he pulled out that big silver thing that measures your foot. I placed my foot in the tray and held my breath. As you can guess, my foot had not shrunk, actually it had grown a little, I was now a 9 ½ E. I could feel my entire body slump with disappointment. The salesmen quickly said, “Well we don’t have the Aigner loafer that will fit, BUT I have a new shoe, which runs a little large, let me go get them, they are Italian leather.”
Within a few minutes he returned with a pair of brown leather size 7 ½ penny loafers. While I thought this was a little odd, I didn’t say anything, after all if they were Italian they must be European sized. I slipped my foot into the shoe. It was like magic, the shoe fit. Yes it was a little Cinderella moment, it wasn’t a glass slipper, but it was new penny loafers and they were a size 7 ½. I was so excited, the shoes fit, they did not have a little A, but they fit, so I could live with them, after all they were a size 7 ½ and they were Italian! I had special European shoes, who really needed an A on their shoes when they had stylish Italian shoes.
My dad and I left the shoe store; I was smiling and couldn’t wait to wear my new shoes to school. After all we all know how smart you look when you are wearing a pair of loafers with a pair of slacks, crisp white shirt and a blazer. This year was going to be awesome.
This may have been another one of those moments that shaped what I would become. I had a “grown up” pair of loafers, I could hold my head high and best of all I would discover you have a much harder time falling off a pair of loafers. For some reason these shoes boosted my confidence, could it be because they were a size 7 ½ or was it I was less likely to fall? Loafers began to define my since of style, they were classic, and I could always count on a pair of loafers.
Like many things in life, things are not always what they seem. You see many years later, 35 years later to be exact I learned the truth, my first pair of loafers were not what I thought they were. They were not “new” Italian loafers that ran big or were European sizes, they were nothing more than a pair of men’s loafers. Yes that’s right men’s loafers. You see my dad wanted to make sure I had some great shoes. He knew how hard it was going to be to find me shoes that would fit, so earlier he went to the shoe store without me, spoke to the shoe clerk to see what the options would be, he and the clerk came up with the idea that men’s shoes would fit. The challenge would be how to keep me from knowing they were men’s shoes. So the “special” Italian shoe idea was born. Guess I have to also point out my dad was a siding salesmen, a tin man, he could sell anything to anybody and we all know about shoe salesmen.
As a side story, I have to also share another dad “selling” story. Many years later I remember my dad showing me this beautiful diamond ring, he told me this story about how he was given the ring in a business trade and didn’t know what he would do with the ring. I loved the ring so much. I begged him for the ring. So like every dad does when his daughter begs, he gave me the ring. I wore the ring so proudly. A few weeks later, as my finger began to turn green, I mentioned it. At first my dad went into this long story about being allergic to the “special” gold the ring was made from. As I looked at him, it occurred to me something was not right, I kept asking questions. Finally he admitted the ring was a $2.00 piece of costume jewelry. I was crushed, my special diamond ring was just a piece of junk that dad had fooled me with, how would I explain this to my friends. Yes I had shown off this ring like it was a priceless piece of jewelry.
Lessons Learned: I guess I have finally learned….watch out for dad! Things may not be as they seem (much later in life this would be even clearer, a story for another day). He will sneak little surprises in when you are not expecting them! Sometimes this is ok…others are a little cruel. As I reflect back on the bigger picture, did it really matter my loafers were actually men’s shoes, probably not. Now the ring was a different story. That was mean. I did learn never to show off anything new. You can and will make a complete fool of yourself!
Friday, April 24, 2009
A pair of white strappy sandals made the first day of junior high one of those moments you never forget. You know one of those moments where you want to go home and crawl in bed and never get up. It just stays with you in the very back of your mind and you always wonder what if.
Since I was going to junior high, my parents wanted to help me start the school year right. They wanted me to have some “stylish” outfits. In those days, hot pants, short skirts and mini dresses were considered the “in” clothes. Of course at my school the “in” kids wore Levi’s pulled down low, hang ten T shirts or jeans and gauze shirts. My parents did not allow me to wear jeans to school, matter of fact I didn’t own my first pair of blue jeans until college.
So I headed off to the first day of junior high in my tasteful little hot pants outfit with some very shiny white strappy sandals with a chunky 3 inch heel. Keep in mind I am still a little chunky, not really fat but not skinny either, just plump. All day long I held my head up very proud, clopped around school in my fashionable outfit with my chunky heeled white sandals.
On the inside I was dying, I just wanted to be one of those kids in cool color Levi cords, a gauze oversized shirt and maybe some cute flat sandals. This is one of those reoccurring patterns. On the surface I am considered a confident outgoing strong person, on the inside I am insecure and just wanting to belong.
Anyway, I had made it through the day; I was feeling pretty good about myself. I was riding the bus home, as in everyone’s past; there is one of those groups of girl’s you just hated. They were the bully’s, the mean girls as much as you hated them, you really wanted to belong, be one of the “in” girls. So as the bus pulls up to my stop and I am getting off the bus, holding my head up high, as I pass “the girls” and someone says something, I smile and respond. I am so excited; maybe just maybe they want to be friends with me. Maybe mom was right, it was all about being stylish! As I step down the steps, I lose my footing, the chunky heel on my white sandals snaps off, I fall off the bus, on to the ground, my heel bounces down on me. As I quickly stand up I can see my knees are scratched and bleeding. My new outfit is covered in dirt and gravel. As kids do, they start to laugh, the bus driver jumps to help and I do what I always do, stand up quickly, try to make a joke, brush myself off and say I am okay.
I walk away from the bus trying very hard not to cry or seem hurt. The bus pulls away and I slowly limp home in tears, completely crushed and my brand new strappy sandals are broken. I remember in that moment thinking I don’t want to see anyone again, I wanted to hide. Like all of these moments in our lives, somehow we pick our self up and move on. After all tomorrow is another day!
When I wonder what if….I hadn’t fallen off the bus, would things be any different? Then I wonder if this was one of those defining moments? Or…was it a “divine” intervention? Was this one of those moments that is given to us by a higher power to remind us of who we are, keep us humble providing us a life lesson.
Lessons learned. Nothing is so bad you can’t get up and face your fears. Don’t laugh at someone falling, or for that matter don’t make fun of anyone’s misfortune, as it could be you. And the last lesson no more white strappy 3 inch heel sandals.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
As a young kid every year I was “blessed” with a new pair of saddle shoes. This tradition continued throughout my early years in elementary school. There were two major issues with saddle shoes.
The first issue, I did not go to elementary school in the 50’s, it was the mid to late 60’s. I really can’t remember what shoes other kids wore I just remember how different mine were. The other big issue was with big wide feet when you wear saddle shoes you truly look like you wearing black and white gun boats. No wonder I was always tripping over my own two feet!
I am pretty sure I had other shoes, maybe some keds tennis shoes, I just can’t remember them. I do remember being barefoot a lot; I had no idea going barefoot all the time would make my feet get wider!
As a kid shoe shopping was awful. I can remember every fall my dad (step dad, mom had remarried) taking me to Hofimers to buy shoes. It was always such a production, I would place my foot in that silver thing that measures your feet, the clerk would just look….it was like hmmm….wow you have a wide foot!
I don’t think they made a lot of wide shoes in those days. So my feet would be squeezed into whatever would stretch…saddle shoes it was! So picture this…a short chubby kid, with glasses and braces wearing shiny black and white gun boats!
Don’t get me wrong, I was very proud of my new shoes. My parents had me convinced they were “cool” shoes. Mom would show me all kinds of girls wearing saddle shoes….you know cheerleaders, Gidget and the kids from Father Knows Best.
Every year I would proudly go off to school with my new shoes, convinced I knew what was stylish. On the outside I held my head high; on the inside I just wanted to be that “cool” skinny blonde girl who wore jeans and tiny nondescript shoes. I just knew with those saddle shoes one day I would be a cheerleader!
What made it worse was my mom had perfect small narrow feet, so she always had the pretty “princess” shoes; I wanted those shoes so bad. I couldn’t even play dress up with moms shoes…my toes wouldn’t go into the shoe.
Lessons learned. Reflecting back I realize my parents weren’t trying to torture me; they were trying to keep shoes on my feet. When you hold your head high and act as if you are okay, you will survive. And keep your little kids from going barefoot, it will make their feet spread; maybe there is something to the old Japanese custom of binding feet. The most important lesson was saddle shoes did not make you a cheerleader later in life!
Monday, April 20, 2009
I have very few memories of my early childhood; one of the things I do remember was Easter with Nannie and Papa and my shiny new Mary Jane’s. You see Nannie was very old school. As a baby and toddler she always dressed me in beautiful hand smocked dresses with shiny baby doll shoes. This tradition remained through early childhood and was always tied to Easter.
Every year for Easter Sunday she would buy me the most beautiful dress and shiny patent leather Mary Jane shoes. The dresses had bows and sashes, they had amazing hand sewn designs, they were soft, flowed in the breeze and some had crinoline’s under them that made them bounce as I walked.
During this yearly event we would go to The Center Shop (at the time the best local department store) to find just the right dress and then go to Hofimers (the shoe store at the time) to buy my shiny new shoes. The day would end with a special lunch. On those days I always felt like I was a princess.
Keeping in mind, dress shopping for a chubby little girl was a chore. While I would try on dress after dress trying to find what Nannie referred to as “the perfect dress”, Nannie never let on I was too chubby for any dress, to her it was finding me a perfect dress. A perfect little dress for her perfect little princess, you see in Nannie’s eyes I was perfect. Even though I was a chubby little girl, Nannie would always say its “just baby fat… she will grow out of it”.
You see, I was a chubby child with skinny parents. My mother’s family was all large people, not really fat people just very large big boned people. This gene seemed to skip my mom, she was tall and thin. She would not be described as big boned. So what she missed I inherited. My father’s family was made up of relatively short people with large bones and well shaped booty’s. So when you put that all together you get me. A large boned girl with a well shaped booty, large feet and hands.
So back to the pretty dresses and the Mary Jane's, I would start Easter morning wearing my pretty dress and new shoes…by the end of the day, the shoes were scuffed and the dress was typically strained or torn. As I have said as hard as I have tried I am not a graceful person, I am actually a klutz. (You will see this pattern continue through my stories.) I have always been hard on shoes, I really don’t know why or how this happens, maybe it’s because my feet are so large they get in the way.
To this day I have a fascination with shiny patent leather shoes, I am always drawn to the beautiful “grown up” baby doll shoes. I would love to own a pretty delicate pair of baby doll shoes. You know the pair….very thin heel, pointy toe and a single pretty little strap that goes over the top of your foot. In an episode of Sex and The City, Carrie discovers a vintage pair in the Vogue closet; she refers to them as an “urban myth”. But you see over the span of my life I have learned, I will trip and scuff any pretty patent leather shoe, so why bother, it only leads to disappointment.
Lessons learned. I am one of those people who will trip or fall at the most critical moments. This will ruin your prettiest shoes. And over time those embarrassing and disappointing moments will eventually become defining moments in your life lessons.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
As a little girl, I dreamed of being a ballerina or a princess, you see I saw them both as the same thing…small tiny beautiful girls in soft frilly dresses. That’s what I wanted to be, a fragile, delicate, soft, small beautiful little girl waiting for someone to sweep in and take care of me. As you know princesses and ballerina’s always have a prince charming that slays the dragons and protects them from all the evil. I wanted the fairy tale! But didn’t we all.
Instead I was the plump little girl with “a pretty face” who was a klutz. On the outside I seemed confident, strong and independent but on the inside I was shy, unsure and dying for someone to tell me I could do it. I was always afraid of failing. It’s funny how these things form as a child and stay with you forever.
Reflecting back as an adult, I think my desire to be rescued comes from the loss of my father at an early age. You see at 5 my parents divorced. In today’s world that doesn’t seem to be such a big thing, but in the 60’s it was different. I think I spent most of my life waiting for Daddy to come home. I wanted a normal family life. You know the Leave it to Beaver family, a mom, dad, brother or sister and the all elusive house with the white picket fence.
I have always been drawn to flat ballet inspired shoes. When I was in my twenties I can remember having the most amazing black suede flats; on the rounded toe area was a large flat black suede flower. I remember wearing those shoes with jeans, a crisp white t-shirt and a black blazer. That was one of those “stylish” outfits that “felt good”.
As I approach 50 and look for shoes, I am drawn to the pretty new ballet inspired shoes, I hold back. For some reason these pretty little shoes don’t go well with swollen ankles.
Lessons learned. You create your own fairy tale, that’s what makes the story so special. You cannot wait for someone else to save you, you have to save yourself. You are responsible for your own failures and successes. And last but not least who can really say what’s normal and what’s not.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Reflection by shoes….
At 49 (very close to 50) I have finally figured out why I hate shoe shopping….its not the shoes its my feet! You see my entire life I have always wanted to be the type of person that would wear an incredible, very stylish pair of shoes. You know a very sheek pair of stillettos, in todays fashion world a pair of Jimmy Choo’s, Malano Blanik’s or Christian Lebountie’s.
As I have become to realize the reason I can’t where these shoes is my feet, you see I have large wide feet and as hard as I try I am not a graceful person. As I have started to reflect back on my life and lessons learned I thought it might be fun to share how shoes have contributed to my life lessons.
I remember my grandmother telling me “if you hold on to something long enough it will come back” I had no idea how right she was. On a recent shopping trip for shoes I had to laugh…I had no idea espidrills, candies and wedges were back….I know I had a few pairs of these many years ago.