Very few shoes fit me – they are either too big or too small; too wide or too narrow. I hate most of the heels, too – either they are too high, too chunky, too thin or just plain ugly.
When buying shoes, I’ll select a pair that hurts the least. When I find shoes that fit, I get the most out of them. I wear the same pair to work every day, whether they match my outfit or not. I have even used a Sharpie marker to cover wear marks and have ignored a hole in the sole until a puddle dampened my foot.
So my mother passed along her cast-offs to me. I think she did so because she noticed the condition of my shoes, and was probably thinking, “I can’t believe she wears those in public!” Trying to be polite, she’d tell me they no longer fit her or were “too youthful” for someone her age.
This is not to say that her shoes were a perfect fit, either. Sometimes they were too big or too small, or a little ugly, but I didn’t care – I was happy to have them.
That is one example of the generosity with which my mother lived her life. She was always giving away her things, her time or her advice. One could never leave her house without a care package of food or random items she thought we could use.
The word “no” was not in her vocabulary, especially if it involved helping her grandchildren or being with a sick friend. And if you were having a problem, especially a medical one, her 50 years as a nurse provided wisdom no doctor’s office co-pay could buy.
If Mom could help you, give you something or had an opinion, she’d give it, without hesitation. I was often humbled by this gift she had, and was one of her many happy recipients.
I hope this history – that I hate shoes and that my mother was incredibly generous – will make it less strange that one of the first things I did after my mother’s recent death was to ask my dad if I could have her shoes. He, having learned lessons of generosity from her over their 51 years of marriage, said, “Of course.” So I went up to her closet and took a look.
I instantly noticed a mistake we had made weeks earlier when preparing for her funeral. We had laid her to rest wearing her best pair of shoes. I could feel my mother’s disapproving head-shake – we should have used her second-best pair because, in her words, “what’s the difference,” and that pair was much “too nice” to waste. I quietly said, “sorry,” and continued to look.
I left the house that day with three pairs of shoes that I liked. Two of them are nice, but not the most comfortable. But the third I have worn nearly every day. They don’t always match my outfit, but they fit perfectly. After work, I come home, kick off my shoes and, surprisingly, walk around the house pain-free. My toes are not smooshed, my arches aren’t cramping, nor is there a blister to be found.
I love these shoes – they really fit perfectly. I look at them, tossed haphazardly in the closet, and think, “Thanks, Mom. I love these shoes!” Then it slowly comes to me and I feel sad.
Reflecting upon the life my mother lived – a life about others and for others – I see now that her shoes will never fit me. They will always be much too big for me to fill.