Brand building through storytelling

Her shoes were made for walking

After my mother died, I found at the bottom of a closet the scuffed, leather walking shoes in which, just the previous summer, she had walked six miles a day. They lay where she had kicked them after an ordinary ramble that turned out to be her last. Dusty laces trailing, they curled against each other like sleeping puppies that might wake at any minute and hurl themselves at the door in an ecstasy of eagerness. They still held the shape of my mother’s toes.

I had given away her hat collection and the remnants of Mexican silver that she had not already handed off between diagnosis and death. I had bagged all her clothes for charity. No doubt a homeless woman could have used the walking shoes. She wouldn’t have minded the cracks in the leather, or the heels worn down at an angle by my mother’s brisk, swaying-hipped stride. But I wept at the thought of other feet in those shoes. If my mother could not wear them, no one would. She never loved any footwear as she had loved her Rockports.

Growing up, I used to wish that my mother owned at least one pair of pointy-toed pumps like Donna Reed’s. To me she resembled Queen Elizabeth, my notion of female beauty. So why did she wear such hideous shoes? No one else’s mother encased her feet in stiff black oxfords laced as tight as Grandma’s corset, with Cuban heels instead of the skinny ones kicked up in Maidenform ads by bare-torso’d models. But in my mother’s opinion, old-lady shoes were precisely what it took to bring her rebel feet into line. Complaining feet, with corns, hammer toes and fallen arches.

I cheered when she finally tossed the black Oxfords, but I waited in vain for slingbacks, T-straps, platform heels or any other concession to glamour of the foot. I never even saw polish on my mother’s toes. Her lifelong scorn for pedicures must have had as much to do with resentment of her feet as with her Depression-era training in frugality.

She was 60-something, a few years older than I am now, when she discovered the Rockports. The next day she called me to exult, “I feel as if my feet are in the hands of God.” So began her life as a woman in motion for the sheer joy of moving. She didn’t ski, skate, golf, cycle or swim (except a leisurely sidestroke); the only game in which she’d ever hit a ball was croquet. But in her stout walking shoes, she could leave the manuscript in her typewriter and the pressure cooker on the stove to stride off down a country road and let the sweet air fill her lungs.

Along with my mother’s zest for walking, I’ve inherited her troublesome feet—more cantankerous with each passing year. Once I could walk to the subway, and from there to the editorial quarters of Maclean’s, in plum-coloured slingbacks that drew a long, lascivious stare from an evil-hearted goblin of a man who thought women should be seen and not heard. Now I can barely stagger from car to party in modestly sexy leopard pumps that I can’t bear to pitch. I’ve had to give up perky little skirts because they look so absurd with D-width hiking boots. But this is the season for my silver Mephisto sandals with the rhinestone buckles, which look almost stylish despite their orthopedic construction. They show off my pink toenail polish. And when I head out for an early evening walk, my feet are in the hands of God.

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Posted by Rona

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