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One step, I reminded my visitors, one step down, one step up. The floor is not level all the way across the room. Just one step. Be careful not to walk on air then plummet down to the hard floor, I told visitors, fully alarming myself in the warnings.

And while still thinking of stepping carefully, I wrote about shoes again. Often in our Farther Along writing group, we have written lists as writing prompts to order the ragged and random thoughts we have. So many lists: grocery lists, the “things we carry” lists, self-care lists, lists of gratitude, lists of fears, hopes, lists of things we miss about our children, lists, lists, catalogs.

In a Writing Our Lives writing group recently, I offered the prompt of “My Life in. . .” lists. Some of us wrote lists about My Life on Porches, My Life in Kitchens, My LIfe in Airports, My Life in Hospitals, My Life in Cars. I wrote My life in Shoes. So many times I had written about my daughter’s shoes. She had so many shoes, each pair for some special need: ballet shoes, tap shoes, running shoes, sandals, heels, boots, the decorated boot for one foot when she had an injury. Her shoes reflected much of what she loved to do. But this time I thought I was writing about my footwear.

My Life in Shoes

  1. Soft white booties, leather with a pink ribbon threaded through gathers and holes punched in the leather (for ventilation? Do babies’ feet sweat?)
  2. Hard, white shoes, laces now as gray as the old leather. Scuffed and wrinkled. Mine were not bronzed as other children’s often were.
  3. Lacey cutout sandals, also white. My only pair of shoes the summer I was a flower girl in my cousin Anna’s wedding.
  4. Black patent leather shoes with a strap across the top of my foot. Hard, shiny, cleaned with vaseline but never soft. Not flexible, they rubbed blisters on my heels even with thin white socks as a barrier.
  5. Saddle oxfords. black and white, lace up, my first fashionable shoes. Fourth grade.
  6. Black suede pointed toe shoes that I bought at age ten with my own money.
  7. Tennis shoes: red canvas-like fabric with white laces. But I never played tennis in them.
  8. My first heels. Twelve years old, and I was a junior bridesmaid in my cousin Pat’s wedding. The shoes were dyed-to-match pink satin with real two-and-a-half-inch heels. I had to practice walking in them and still lurched a little as I walked down the aisle.
  9. So many more shoes, some down on the heels like the crunched ballet slippers (not really for ballet because I didn’t dance either).
  10. That pair of brown suede boots I bought on sale before my children were born and wore for many years of toasty warmth and bold feminist fashion statement until some children who will remain nameless had a slime fight in my closet and left permanent green drips on the suede. I kept the boots a little longer until one of the hamsters found a secret hiding place in one of them.
  11. Suede two-toned rust and brown flats that my daughter and I shared when, briefly, our feet were the same size.
  12. Not my shoes, but the blue ER bag with the pair of running shoes my daughter wore when she died, the only personal effect of hers returned from the hospital. Her shoes.

Lists can take us to times and places and memories, each one a step farther. Lists can tell our stories, one bullet point at a time.


See also Peggy’s piece about Rebecca’s shoes.