Thursday, July 28, 2005

School Shoes

"Why do we always have to get our school shoes HERE?"

Year after year, the whine would emanate from the four school-aged Miles children, packed into the backseat of the station wagon, as we made the annual drive to the shoestore on Carnegie Avenue. (David, eight years my junior, played in his car seat in the front, too young to care)

In a tone making it clear there would be no more discussion, my mother stated,

"I want my children to have good feet"

Marsal's Scientific Shoe Store had lots of pictures on the wall of feet. Black and white pictures of shoes, with the top potion of the leather cut away so you could view the toes...good toes, cramped toes, hammer toes, name it. The photographs would show side by side comparasons of feet in poorly fitting shoes next to feet in Scientific Shoes. Very compelling. Very convincing.

I would sit in one of the big comfy chairs, waiting my turn to be fitted, and stare at the feet in frames.
When it was finally my turn, Mrs. White, the smiling perfectly coiffed, sales-lady, would ask,

"Which shoes do you like?"

I didn't like any of them. I would look at the pitiful selection in my size, of about five different sensible styles, and try to decide which was the least ugly. In the end, it didn't matter what I picked, I knew the teasing would be waiting for me at school the moment I got off the bus.

"Those are some UGLY shoes!"
"Did you get those shoes from your grandma's closet?"
"Look, she's wearin' her grandma's shoes!"

When I would complain to my mother, she would answer.

"Don't worry about what the other kid's wearing their cheap shoes are saying. You are going to have good feet when you grow up."

How I longed to go to one of the other "regular" shoe stores, and pick out something that was cute and stylish.

"Those shoes are junk." Mom would say. "They start falling apart after a few months."

She was right, of course. In comparison, Marsal's Scientific Shoes were virtually indestructible.
We had tried..foot-dragging, scuffing, soaking...anything short of blatantly obvious, purposeful, destruction. It only served to make the ugly shoes uglier.
They would not tear or get holes in them, they would simply get scruffy. Nothing a little bit of old fashioned shoe polish wouldn't fix.

Elementary school teasing became unbearable taunting in middle school, when the need to be cool outweighs everything else in a teenager's world.
How could I ever be cool in Scientific Shoes?
It was impossible.

My idea for fashion salvation came to me one day, when I noticed a group of girls from Notre Dame Academy, the Catholic girls high school a few miles away, waiting for a bus. Dressed in blazers, plaid skirts, and saddle shoes, they smiled, talked, and giggled. A group of boys drove by in a car, honking the horn. They waved back.

Saddle shoes!
Marsal's sold saddle shoes.

I came home, and announced to my parents that I would like to go to Notre Dame Academy.
My mother was overjoyed; the school was her alma-mater. My father couldn't say no.

That September, I walked into a classroom full of girls, in my Marsal's Scientific saddle shoes...and nobody noticed my feet. Instead of being "the girl with the ugly shoes", I was the "new girl", who eventually became "the artist".


PS. To this day, thanks to my mother, I still have very good feet.
PPS. I also have an obscene, Imeldaesque, collection of very unscientific shoes in my closet


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Jennifer Burton said...

great story! made me smile.

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