Despite my fierce love of shoes, my very first shoe memory is a sad one: saddle shoes. These were the most hated things I ever had to put on my feet, but my mother adored them, and for a period of time, when I was about four, I ended up wearing them somewhat regularly. I had some remarkably cool red Keds at the time (pictures confirm this), which I adored, but the saddle shoes would come out anytime I had to wear a dress, something I wasn’t also that keen on (really it was the high-necked collars on dresses that drove me crazy and for a time my mother even had to cut the necks off turtlenecks before I would consider wearing them). I remember looking down at my feet and feeling totally forlorn. No matter how much I protested I had to wear them.
But then one day, while watching “Sesame Street” with my mother, a kind of remarkable thing happened. Bert was singing about pigeons (which made sense) but he was dancing. This guy had never extended beyond his torso before! I remember my mother screaming with laughter: “Bert has feet!” But what I could not get over was that the shoes that Bert had clearly been wearing all this time, that we could suddenly see now, were none other than saddle shoes. “Bert wears saddle shoes!” my mother shrieked with delight.
I think of this as an early loss of innocence moment. Just picture a little girl, staring at the television, confused but charmed, not sure what to make of the situation. I never grew to like saddle shoes and eventually (finally!), at a certain point, I stopped wearing them. I forgave Bert.
Which brings me to another loss of innocence moment that happened not very long ago. I was going through my shoes one summer, eager to wear something open-toed. I came across a pair of Kenneth Cole black platform sandals (bought at some kind of super sale, I feel compelled to add) that I had bought when I was about 25 years old and had happily clomped around on through the city for an entire summer until the one of the heels separated from the bottom of the shoe and I had to have it glued back on by a cobbler (remember when that was something you could just do?). Now it was about 20 years later but somehow these shoes had survived many different packings and unpackings from one house to another and were ready to be worn again. Or were they?
I tried them on, now a 40-something grown-up lady, and stared at myself in the mirror. They still fit, of course, but something wasn’t quite right. After staring and staring at them for a long time, I realized that I wasn’t quite right. That is, the shoes fit, but they didn’t quite work anymore. Somehow (and this was quite a revelation at the time) the platform sandals did not match me. You hear about how after a certain age you just can’t quite carry off certain clothes anymore (and I definitely got that) but somehow, sometimes the same thing happens with shoes. Unlike my face, my 40-something feet pretty much resemble my 20-something feet, but when you looked from one to the other (face to shoes, shoes to face) they just didn’t match.
So I packed up the shoes for the last time and donated them to the Salvation Army (I confess that some of the best shoes I own came from a thrift store or consignment shop. I have no problem wearing shoes that someone else has worn. I am just always amazed that people donate such lightly worn shoes. I never get rid of mine until they have fallen to pieces, or as proved above, when they no longer match.). I don’t really miss those shoes, the way I don’t really miss the 20-something me (who, I’ll admit, had lots more energy and looked pretty cute in those black platform sandals).
Plus I take great comfort in the fact that I have a pair of blue suede platform shoes from years ago that still look fabulous.