It really is time for a parting or the ways. There is little sole left between us anymore, but I still hold on to the memories. We are moulded together, you and I and have that comfortable relationship that doesn’t evolve over night.
It is approaching ten years since my mother died. Breast Cancer. We knew it was aggressive; we knew what the outcome would be but there was still the shocked disbelief when it happened so quickly. I found myself wandering around wearing the purple floppy hat that she used to wear while hanging out the washing in the summer sun, clinging to that vestige of contact with her. I even used to ring her mobile to listen to her stating her name, clearly and precisely. I was never sure whether to talk to her during those calls or not. Would she get my message? I was desperate for those connections not to disappear.
The clean-up of clothes and possessions was one of those tasks to be endured. Lots of stuff went to the local charity shop, and other bits and pieces were claimed by family members. Other things, we simply didn’t know what to do with – too good to throw away but perhaps too old, too out of style or just simply not needed. A conundrum that is no doubt being addressed by so many right at this moment.
It was during one of these sessions that I encountered you. You were not really my type, with me favouring options that were more open and less restrained, but probably still seeking that connection with mother I gave you a try. Oh how comfortable. To my surprise, the fit was good. I rocked backwards and forwards, testing the cushioning and support and after a few tentative steps, we walked out together. It was the beginning of a dependent relationship and I soon fell in love with a pair of black Rockport walking shoes.
Mother had done the hard work for me, with her feet moulding the soft leather and creating a comfortable cocoon across the toes. The back was softened too, so that it embraced and shielded rather than abraded my heel. I was so delighted that I even wrote a poem entitled ‘Walking in my mother’s shoes’. I liked the support that they gave me and the ability to walk and walk and walk. I guess that is why they were called walkers.
I wore them to work and on field trips – even times when I should have been wearing a steel-capped variety. Regular polishing maintained the soft leather and I took pride in their gleaming presentation. I am not sure how long mother wore those shoes, but as the years of my custodianship passed, the soles took a battering and in time began to separate from the uppers. I flopped and flapped around for a while, walking with a strange strut because of it but finally presented them for inspection at the shoe repair booth. There was a lot of umming and ahhing, but eventually I was told that they could be re-soled.
This involved slicing off the old sole and gluing a replacement in place. It worked – for a while and then either left or right would become loose again and I would carefully reglue. The gaps between gluing became shorter and shorter resulting in more flipping and flapping. In the end I had to accept that the re-soling had not been a success. They were retired to the shoe rack in my cupboard. I was not ready to let them go, even if they were not wearable any more.
It has got me thinking about shoes and the connotations that we bestow upon them. I have tarty shoes and practical shoes; dancing shoes and running shoes; working shoes and playing shoes. Each pair creates a mood and ambiance with which I have a co-dependant relationship. I both create it and assume it on wearing the shoes. They don’t quite have a life of their own like the red shoes of Hans Christian Anderson but they each have a personality none-the-less.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of a clean-out. It is part of the de-clutter program that I wrote about here. You smiled at me gummily from the rack, with your soles clearly separating around the toes. I knew that I had to act quickly before you talked me out of my resolve. I felt such a traitor and kept my eyes averted from your lolling tongue. I hope you understand but it was time. I had to do it. The lid slapped down with finality, not just on you but yet another link with my mother.