If the Shoe Fits

By Linda O'Connell

If the Shoe Fits

There was a time in my life when I clomped to work in fancy dress shoes, and I danced the metal tips right off every pair of high heels in my closet. These days I prefer my shoes cushy-soft, and I wish with all my heart that winter didn’t come to the Midwest. Like most women, I have about twenty pairs of shoes and boots. I absolutely love shoes.

I’m convinced my shoe fetish goes back to childhood. We were a needy family. I wore my black, patent leather Mary Janes to school until I wore a quarter-sized hole in the leather sole. Dad was out of work, and so he did what needed to be done. He waited until Mom fried the last egg in the carton, then he grabbed the scissors, drew around my foot, and made a shoe insert from the lid of the thick cardboard carton. I thought nothing of it, until one day in fourth grade when I crossed my leg on top of my knee. Richard, the smart-mouth trouble-maker sitting in the desk across from me smirked, “You have Grade A extra large feet.”

I tried to ignore him, but he told the entire class that my shoe size read Grade A extra large, just like the writing on an egg carton. I slid my foot out of my Mary Janes and showed him the gray insert. “Does not, you big liar!”

“Does too! Look at the bottom of your shoe.”

My face burned with embarrassment. I never wanted to go back to school again. I plotted my own fictitious illness as I rode the bus home that afternoon. I mussed my hair, practiced a barking cough and plastered a sad look on my face as I walked through the door. I couldn’t believe my eyes! To my utter amazement, two brand new pairs of black, suede shoes were on the table. One had a decorative golden chain, and the other a fancy tassel. My heart raced with excitement. My eyes grew as wide as my smile.

“Where did these come from? Who do they belong to?” I lifted them from the shoe boxes and caressed them. It was better than Christmas.

“Baby, they’re yours if they fit,” Dad said.

“Well if they don’t fit, we’ll exchange them.” I beamed.

“No, we can’t take them back. Either they fit you or they don’t.”

I felt like Cinderella’s step-sisters as I tried to shove my turtle head big toe and extra wide foot into the most beautiful pair of shoes I’d ever seen. My toe joints ached, my foot felt like it was in a vise in the extra narrow width shoes, but I didn’t care.

I wore them to school the very next day. I couldn’t wait for Big-Mouth to notice my new shoes. “Nice kicks,” he commented, and I smirked at him.

During the morning as I did my work, my feet ached so badly that I slid my heels out of the shoes and experienced instant relief. When the recess bell rang, I tried to slip my feet back in, but they had swollen, and there was no way I would win the battle of the bulging foot this time. I mashed down the back of the shoes and walked around with my heels exposed. “Blisters. New shoes,” I told anyone who asked.

That afternoon I admitted to myself what Dad had denied and Mom already knew – my shoes were too small.

“Dad, please tell me where you got these.”

“All I can tell you is they are not returnable.”

“Dad, you didn’t steal them! I’ll take them back myself. Tell me where they came from.”

“The city dump, if you want to know the truth! I got a pair for you and your mother. I was dumping a load of refuse when a shoe store owner hauled in a truck load of boxed shoes. The watchmen saw me grab these two pairs, and he ran me off. Sin to throw away good shoes!” Dad felt as bad as I did.

I cried for the ache in my heart, not my feet. Then I took my new shoes next door to the spoiled neighbor girl, whose family was well off, and I asked what size shoe she wore. Wouldn’t you know? They fit her perfectly.

It wasn’t long before my parents had enough money to buy me a new pair of shoes, just the style I never wanted, a thick-soled pair of brown oxfords that tied and would last all year. I spent my childhood in sensible shoes, loafers and black and white “saddles.” When I became a teenager, I selected my own girly shoes at a local shoe store which had its slogan plastered across the window, “Two for Five Man Alive!” I must have bought two pairs every two months.

I’ve been on a shoe buying frenzy for forty years. These days, my feet protest louder than I did the day I had to give away my new shoes, and now I live vicariously through the shoes of others. I enjoy going into department stores and watching young women strut in pointy toed shoes and high heeled boots that I once coveted.

They say if the shoe fits…, but these days the only thing that fits is flats, flip-flops, and frumpies.

About this writer

  • Linda O’ConnellLinda O’Connell is a seasoned preschool teacher and award-winning freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri. Her prose and poetry have appeared in books, magazines and anthologies. As Linda waltzed through the decades, she discovered her age of elegance was in her forties, but she isn’t complaining. Life has been an adventure. Linda resides in the Midwest but her heart and soul hang out at the beach.

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2 Responses to “If the Shoe Fits”

  1. Debbie Fox says:

    A poignant story. I felt your pain in that classroom. Wonderfully written.

  2. Wonderful story! So visual, I was right there with you, Linda!! Thanks for sharing it with us!

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