Saddle Shoes Recycled

When I introduced my class to the “writing process” back in September, they were aghast that they would have to “rewrite” their papers after they were “done.” It didn’t help them to know that I rewrite everything I do at least five or six times before I feel it’s ready for someone else to read.  At that point, all of us writers know that a piece is never truly “done”–we either run up against a deadline or we get sick of the piece. Right?

Well, my class looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. They just didn’t understand that good writing doesn’t just plop down on the paper. They didn’t believe me that they couldn’t buy a “magic pen” that would produce good work on the first try.

So, I thought I’d lead by example. I’d show them the process by honing a piece of my own and post the reiterations on the Blackboard Online tool. I thought the idea was brilliant. I know that I would have clambered to read something my teacher had written. The truth is: no one bothered to look at the evolution of my short story. I hesitate to call them lazy, but if the shoe fits . . .

In lieu of letting a good story go to waste, I’m sharing it with you.

Saddle Shoes for Flat Feet

Copyright 2012 Barbara Celeste McCloskey

When I was in first grade, my parents were told by my pediatrician that I had flat feet. My parents accepted the doctor’s word as gospel, so when he wrote a prescription for a pair of “corrective” shoes, my mother marched me off  to Stilb’s Shoe Store where such special footwear was sold. At the time I had no idea what that meant, but the diagnosis scarred my six year old life.

In the front window there was a beautiful display of adult and children’s footwear, and when I saw a pair of red patent leather shoes, I was delighted. My mother opened the glass door to enter the store, and a bell tinkled announcing our arrival. A tall, skinny  man in an ill-fitting brown suit, white shirt and wide tie greeted us with a nasal voice that sounded like a foghorn. My mother handed him the doctor’s prescription and he nodded. Then he led us to a display of children’s shoes and explained to MY MOTHER that SHE had two choices – “Buster Browns” or Stride Rite Saddle Shoes. Hey wait a minute! These are my feet! What happened to the cute Mary Jane’s in the window?

The man ushered us to a couple of chairs, while he sat on a short stool that had a kind of a ramp on it. He told me to take off my shoes, grabbed my right sock-covered foot, and then put it on the measuring tool. He slid a couple of levers on the tool, smiled announcing my size, and then disappeared through a doorway at the back of the store that was covered with a black curtain. I thought it like the scene in the “Wizard of Oz,” when the wizard hid behind the curtain. I wondered if the man had ruby red slippers back there, too.

The shoe salesman returned in a few minutes with one shoebox. He sat down on the little stool again, and put the new shoe on my right foot. “How does that feel, little girl?” If he had asked me, “How does that look, little girl?” I would have told him in no uncertain terms the shoes were ugly. But instead, I shrugged and  he put on  the other shoe. Next he told me to walk around. The shoes were so stiff and heavy, it was hard to bend my feet. I picked up one foot after another like an old field horse.  My mother scowled and scolded me for acting like a clown.

I cried, “But, Mom, I can’t bend ‘em!”

She and the man said, “You just have to break them in, and then they will be fine.” I thought, “Yeah, right. Breaking these shoes in will take at least fifty years!

When Monday morning came around, my new saddle shoes and I had our debut at school. I knew I was doomed. I was a geek before my time. Wearing these white and black clodhoppers would make me stand out from all the other girls who could wear pretty flats, and boys who could wear tennis shoes. I bet no one else had to wear saddle shoes with half-inch thick soles.

When the other girls jumped rope at recess, they leaped like graceful ballerinas, but I landed with a thud the soles as thick as truck tires hit the pavement. I was humiliated because I “missed” after a couple of jumps and had to be a “twirler” for the rest of recess. I needed a strategy to get out of these terrible shoes!

That night, I came up with a brilliant plan that I would employ the very next day. If I could wear out the saddle shoes, my mother would have to buy me a different pair! It was sheer genius!

I left the house with a smile because I looked forward to playing a  rock‘em, sock’em “Red Rover Come Over” in the field . Everybody loved the game, so I knew it would be easy to talk my classmates into playing. In no time at all, I would have the first installment of my “Operation Demolish the Saddle Shoes” in full swing. By the end of the week, I’d have those ugly shoes so scuffed and dirty, my mother would have to do something.

On Friday after a week of rough games, jumping in puddles, and dragging my heels through the dirt, I handed my mother the war-torn shoes only to get a scolding. “Why can’t you act like a girl, Barbara Jean?” Whenever I heard my middle name and first name together, I was one step away from death! She grabbed the shoes muttering something about me not appreciating anything, and I went to my room thinking my ingenious plan had worked! Very soon I’d be on my way to normal girl’s shoes!

A few hours later I was happily coloring in my bedroom, when my mother came into my room with the saddle shoes. She had washed the dirt off and covered the scars with white Griffin Shoe Polish. Then she bushed them to a showroom luster and handed them back to me. “Here you go. Now be more careful ! These shoes cost a lot of money and I expect you to take better care of them.”

I hid my disappointment with a cheesy smile, and promised to do better. After my mother left my room, I threw the shoes in the closet and plopped on my bed.  How was I ever going to get rid of these ugly buggers? My mother and the saddle shoes had won this skirmish, so I fell asleep dreaming of a day when my feet would have arches, and I could run in a pair of PF fliers like the rest of the kids.

Months went by, and it seemed my only recourse for my shoe dilemma was to grow bigger feet. Surely, my tender little six year-old feet would have found their arches by now, and I could get prettier shoes. So as soon as I felt my toes touched the end of the shoe, I put on an exaggerated limp, so my mother would see my severe suffering. “Mom, my toes are squished!” I complained. “Isn’t that more important any old flat feet?”

A few days later, we piled into our old Buick and headed for the shoe store to buy a new pair of shoes for my ever-expanding feet. All the way into town, I knew this time I’d merit a pair of red Mary Jane’s, and I pictured myself skipping merrily out of the store.

When we walked through the door of the store, my mother ordered me to behave. Just like last time the tall, skinny man sized up my foot, and I waited in anticipation as he searched the back of the store for my special new pair of shoes. He returned with a smile, and my eyes were wide-open with anticipation as he opened the box and peeled back the tissue paper that protected my new shoes. And there they were!  I couldn’t believe it! Another pair of saddle shoes—except these were brown and white!  Oh NO! There must be a mistake! These shoes weren’t for me! Where was my Mary Jane’s?

As he laced up the new Stride Rites, I felt my feet crying. This pair of saddle shoes was as stiff as the old saddle shoes had been. And again, I walked out of the store not being able to bend my feet. There were no smiles for me that day. I was licked by flat feet and dumb old corrective saddle shoes. I guessed I would probably have to be as old as my mother before I had any power to dictate what I would wear on my own two feet! 

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