Saddle Shoe Memories

What shoes did you wear as a child? 

This past week I’ve been  reaching into my own memory bank for the shoes I used to wear. Maybe they weren’t that important to me because only a few stand out. There was a pair of white Mary Janes I wore for my First Communion. My saddle shoes made me feel stylish for a few years. Not having Google, I took mental notes of what the  “big†girls in school (and by big, I mean those who were 4 or 5 grades a head of me) were wearing to find out what I should be wearing. I also remember finding a new variation of saddle shoes in a Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog.  I lusted over them until eventually, they were mine. 

The shoes I remember most were a pair of cowboy boots—but for a reason you might not guess. My brother Len’s birthday is 8 days before mine.  During the height of the television westerns that we loved, he got a cowboy hat, vest, gun, holster and cowboy boots. I was happy for him, because I knew that I would get the same thing the next week.

And I was almost right. I got everything except the boots. In my disappointment at not getting the thing I wanted most,  I asked mom why, she said, “Because you’re a girl,†which was the first time I remember wishing I was a boy. It was all about the shoes—even then!

To be fair to Mom, maybe they didn’t make girls boots at the time, or they didn’t have my size, or maybe my parents ran out of money for birthday gifts…or maybe they didn’t think boots would mean that much to me. Most likely the first thing that popped into Mom’s head to justify her decision was: “…because you’re a girl.†It was the 50s, so that was a reasonable reply.  I’ll never know. 

My husband, who is most likely tired of hearing that story, suggested that I fulfill my wish for cowboy boots (and maybe they’re called cowgirl boots now) on a recent trip to Nashville–where all the finest boots can be found. But I wasn’t interested. I’m grown up now, and realize that we all survive just fine without getting everything on the wish list.

And the rest of the story involves what my brother said when I asked him if he remembered the birthday boots.  He remembered the hat and guns and holster with great joy.  “But what about the boots?†I asked. His reply shocked me: “I don’t remember those at all.†How could that be? 

Which leads me to the question: Is it human nature to remember less of what we receive, and more of the unfulfilled desires of the past? Does the “one that got away†command more of our attention? Or is this just me? My gut tells me it’s a little of both. 

Shoe stories are like gatekeepers of memory. Boots or no boots, it’s fun to drop in on the days of the past to feel that inner child of a more innocent time. The best part about being seasoned by life is to look at our memories from a broader perspective. I remind myself to view everyone with curiosity, kindness and give them the benefit of the doubt. As Grandma Vic used to say, “We’re all just doing the best we can.â€Â 

P.S. She also used to say, “The first hundred years are the worst.â€Â 

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