I Went to Target to Buy Shoes and Got Sucker Punched by the Past

I had to take the kids shopping for school shoes today.  Bunny has suddenly grown about an inch and a half taller and gone up a shoe size overnight.  I wish she’d cut that out.

Bunny loves trying on shoes and she loved everything she tried.  I told her I would get her a pair of boots and a pair of flats since she now fits none of her old shoes except the sneakers she’s supposed to keep at school.

The boots were easy.  The flats were a challenge.  She picked out her three favorites – black with a bow with studs all over it, plain black, and floral with sequins.  I asked her to choose.  She couldn’t make a decision.

We all stared at the shoes in silence.  Well, her brother crawled under the cart and looked up at us through the bright red plastic slats.  But Bunny and I stared in silence.

Finally, she said, “I like the ones with the bow.  That bow is sparkly.  But I’m not sure they’re me.”  She put them back on the shelf and we stared at the remaining two for a while.

Bunny:  I like both of these.

Me:  I know.  But I can’t afford to buy you three new pairs of shoes.

Bunny:  I know.

We were down to floral with sequins and plain black.  She asked me what I thought.

I said:  Well, black goes with everything.  And if you want to join the school chorus this year, you have to have black shoes with your uniform.

Bunny:  You’re only saying good things about the black ones and bad things about the flower ones.

Me:  I’m not saying anything bad about the flower ones.  I like them.  I’m just saying that, from a practical standpoint, the black ones make sense.  They go with more outfits and you need black shoes for chorus.

Bunny: Then why even bother thinking about the other ones?

Me:  Because sometimes you just like something a whole lot.  Sometimes practicality doesn’t matter as much if something is really special to you.   You have to decide.


Bunny:  I’ll get the black ones.

Me:  Are you sure?

Bunny:  Sure.

Me:  You’re happy with that decision, right?

Bunny:  Sure.

And she was.  There was the tiniest tinge of regret in her voice but she was fine.  She would not have moped about those shoes.  They were cute but they were not the end all/be all for her.  She knows we’re on a budget and we can’t have everything we want and she never complains.

That’s just it.  She never complains.  (I mean…at least not about THAT.)

I walked the floral shoes back to their place on the shelf and saw that they were on sale for two thirds of the regular price.

Before I could stop myself, I walked them back to the cart and dropped them in.  “These are on sale.  I’ll get you three.”

Bunny was really thrilled.  And when she picked out her back-to-school outfit tonight, those were the shoes she chose to wear with it.  And they do match EXACTLY.

Of course, the minute I put them in the cart, a battle waged inside me.  I scolded myself because, really, we are on a tight budget.  I’m in school and I just paid tuition and books and I have to pay for childcare every week even though no extra money is coming in.  I worry about money every single day and while I try to keep it off my kids’ plates – I want them to never worry that we’ll not have food or shelter or that they won’t be able to take lessons or whatever – I also want them to understand that we have to be responsible.

And I’m already a total sucker who buys her boots every year because she has these long skinny legs and she wears skinny jeans or leggings with boots and looks SO GREAT!!!  I love boots.  And if they looked like that on me…OH!  The ENVY you would all have!!!

I was mad at myself because she made an appropriate decision and she was satisfied and would have been perfectly happy and that’s good.  That’s a good lesson.  I should have left the flowered flats behind!

I suffered over it all the way home.  I went back and forth between “Well, they were on sale” and “I can make an entire dinner for the amount I paid for those unnecessary shoes!” (I mean, not gourmet or anything – we don’t roll like that here.  But it woulda bought soup and crackers and fresh fruit.)

Then, as I was putting away groceries, I thought about my mom.  My parents went through some really poor patches.  REALLY poor.  And my mom mostly kept me and my sister in the dark about it.  We never wanted for anything.  We were happy and we had no idea we were poor.

Except there was this one shoe incident.

We had enough money each year for one pair of shoes each.  This was the olden days when there wasn’t a Target filled with shoes that were probably made in sweat shops and can be purchased on sale for a 10-spot.  We went to Buster Browns and we had our feet measured on that metal thing and we tried on shoes and walked around and the guy waited patiently because he made a commission off the sale.

We always bought shoes that were sturdy and practical.  I needed shoes that would match everything and hold up for a full year.

In first grade, I chose a pair of brown suede shoes with a strap.  There were flowers embroidered on the sides.  I remember them so clearly.

About two days after school started, I put my shoes on and my toes hit the end.  In fact, they didn’t just hit the end, they curled up at the end lest my heels not allow themselves to be shoved into the back.  And they hurt.  OH!  They HURT.

I told my mom and she was furious.  Livid.  We had just gotten those shoes and I would by god wear those shoes because they were expensive and brand new and I couldn’t possibly have outgrown them because the man measured my feet and made sure they fit!

So I wore them to school and they really hurt.  They hurt so badly I couldn’t think of much else.  They hurt so badly I was a bit hobbled.

It didn’t make sense to me at the time that she would be mad that my shoes hurt but now that I’m an adult, I get it.  There was simply no money for another pair of shoes.  The well was dry.  She had no idea what to even DO if I couldn’t wear those shoes.  She couldn't buy another pair.

But it didn’t mean that she didn’t WISH I could have another pair.

And for the brief time she was a proud grandmother of this little girl, for the 21 months she got to buy frilly baby dresses at boutiques that were wildly impractical for the sheer fun of it, she would’ve absolutely bought those shoes for our Bunny.

So those shoes are a gift from Grandma.

Now we can both feel great about them.

By the way, my first grade Buster Browns suddenly didn’t fit because I had stuffed my socks into the toes of them when I took them off instead of putting them in the hamper where they belonged and then had forgotten and had shoved my feet into them like a dummy without knowing the socks were there.

When I discovered it and showed my mom, her relief was palpable and she hugged me for a really long time.


This entry didn’t end up being about shoes at all.


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