August 1, 2019
This veers off my normal Adventures in Farming topics, but as I recently had to move my mom from one nursing home to a new one, I’ve been thinking a lot about shoes lately. Ok, truth be known, I think a lot about shoes on a regular basis, really, who doesn’t? I’ve had a lifelong love affair with shoes, something I’m convinced is a genetic trait inherited from my mother. My mom’s shoe collection was epic, enough so that she wrote and illustrated a book for me called The Honeymoon Shoes, which was the tale of preparing for their move to Colorado after they’d retired.
As my mom was known far and wide for never throwing One Single Thing Out, the task of cleaning out and packing up the attic of my childhood home in Michigan was a daunting one. I flew out a week before the move was scheduled specifically to tackle the attic. 25 years of stuff up there (including my original wedding dress despite that I’d been divorced over 10 years and long since remarried), and enough shoes to open a new department at Nordstrom’s. But the Queens of the collection were the taupe alligator heels with ivory spats and the green suede Balenciaga’s that my dad had bought for her on their honeymoon in New Orleans so many years ago. Needless to say, those weren’t going anywhere except in a suitcase destined for Colorado. Neither were the gold (yes, gold, my mom was nothing if not bold in her footwear) cowboy boots she’d bought on a trip to visit us out here. She liked to wear them to the grocery store. This became a trend, as every pair had a story, and we wound up with boxes and boxes and boxes of shoes for the movers to load. Not one single pair was ditched.
While my own collection is nowhere near as impressive, because whose could be, it’s still a bit larger than I would ever show someone in its entirety. But, like mom’s, every pair has a story. Back in the day and when I was in the corporate world, I was definitely a high heels kinda gal. Now, I’m more likely to tip over if I put on a pair of 4” stilettos, and yet I can’t seem to send them away. There are the black pointy-toed brocade pair, once referred to by an old boss as my “fence-climbers”, that I’d bought for a friend’s wedding in Vegas and they became my go-to shoes for any little black dress. Then my high heeled black booties that made me feel like I was one of Charlie’s Angels. Oh, and the 3” pink strappy sandals with a bit of fluff on the toes that were reminiscent of some 1960’s boudoir slippers. Girliest girl shoes ever. I could go on, but you get the drift and any more examples would just lead further down the road of embarrassment.
These last 10 years, though, I find that comfort has taken over the primary spot when selecting footwear, and have entered into the Function over Form phase. (Don’t tell my mom.) Life now consists of boots. And while I’ve collected, ok hoarded, more pairs than a normal human would ever need, I seem to always come back to one of four pairs that are tried and true, and any day’s given choice is driven solely by weather. For heavy snow, of course the Sorel’s have more than earned their place in the lineup. The riding boots were an accidental purchase when I saw them across the room at the Stock Show, tripped, and apparently swiped my credit card on the way down. My every day go-to cowboy boots are so worn in the heels it’s a wonder I don’t just fall over backwards, but they’re so comfortable that I hate to part with them even long enough to get re-heeled. I’d be curious as to just how many acres of land have been walked in those, I think it would be staggering. And of course, the muck boots that I’ll likely wear until they explode right off my feet.
So, the universe has a funny way of showing up. I started this essay a month or so ago, finished to the paragraph above, and had set it aside until I could figure out how to end it. Last week, after a fall, we suddenly lost my mom. She passed away peacefully on June 28, and there was my ending. Since it would take me many more pages to tell you all that she was, for now I’ll settle on the words I used to announce her passing: Incredible, beautiful, strong, fierce, independent, strong-willed, creative, elegant, talented, joyful, funny as hell, could swear like a sailor, compassionate, loving, and loveable. And I’m pretty sure she’s dancing again with my dad in her Honeymoon Shoes.