Bought a new pair of shoes today and that got me to thinking about the year my grandmothers died. I’d turned twelve that year and as my sister-in-law says, over night I’d become all arms and legs. My poor mom was overwhelmed with caring for my brother, she’d lost a mother in law a few months earlier, now having lost her mother, and running the family business, so she decided that she’d let my aunt, her younger sister, take me shoe shopping. Mom’s request was simple: Buy a pair of shoes that a twelve year old girl could wear to a funeral. No tennis shoes.
She gave my aunt her check book, me, and an unlimited amount of money, if she’d just fulfill this one request. For my aunt, it seemed simple. She’d had boys, but she loved dressing me up. I was her personal Barbie doll and now she had access to unlimited funds to purchase one item. A pair of shoes.
Mom went to the funeral home to make final arrangements and sent me and my aunt shopping. We went to every store in town. I tried on hundreds of pairs of shoes. You see, Mom understood something about my foot my aunt didn’t. While it had grown longer in my twelfth year, it had not grown wider. Tennis shoes are fine for narrow fitting feet. They hug the foot and you can just tie the shoe strings tighter to make the shoe stay on. Dress shoes don’t have that sort of give. We tried on cheap shoes at Kmart. Nope, as soon as I took a step, I would step completely out of the shoe. We tried sandals, but for the life of me, I would step right out of those strapless beauties. We tried expensive shoe at a company that made money promising kids they could get a free prize from a golden egg. We left with no shoes, and no golden egg. Apparently those only come with purchase.
Mom got done at the funeral home and went home to rest. It had been hours since she’d sent us out and now she began to worry. Her sister wasn’t exactly the one you gave carte blanch to your checking account. Finally right before dinner, we arrived home. My aunt was tired, haggled, in no mood for discussion. I was as pleased as punch with my new shoes.
And that’s how I came to wear a new pair of tennis shoes to my grandmother’s funeral.