What shoes did you wear as a child?Â
This past week I’ve been Â reaching into my own memory bank for the shoes I used to wear. Maybe they werenâ€™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 theÂ â€œbigâ€ 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.Â I lusted over them until eventually, they were mine.Â
The shoes I remember most were a pair of cowboy bootsâ€”but for a reason you might not guess. My brother Lenâ€™s birthday is 8 days before mine.Â 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, Â I asked mom why, she said, â€œBecause youâ€™re a girl,â€ which was the first time I remember wishing I was a boy. It was all about the shoesâ€”even then!
To be fair to Mom, maybe they didnâ€™t make girls boots at the time, or they didnâ€™t have my size, or maybe my parents ran out of money for birthday giftsâ€¦or maybe they didnâ€™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: â€œâ€¦because youâ€™re a girl.â€ It was the 50s, so that was a reasonable reply.Â Iâ€™ll never know.Â
My husband, who is most likely tired of hearing that story, suggested that I fulfill my wish for cowboy boots (and maybe theyâ€™re called cowgirl boots now) on a recent trip to Nashville–where all the finest boots can be found. But I wasnâ€™t interested. Iâ€™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. Â He remembered the hat and guns and holster with great joy.Â â€œBut what about the boots?â€ I asked. His reply shocked me: â€œI donâ€™t remember those at all.â€ How could that be?Â
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 â€œone that got awayâ€ command more of our attention? Or is this just me? My gut tells me itâ€™s a little of both.Â
Shoe stories are like gatekeepers of memory. Boots or no boots, itâ€™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, â€œWe’re all just doing the best we can.â€Â
P.S. She also used to say, â€œThe first hundred years are the worst.â€Â