Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Ole' Soft Shoe

"Wiggle your toe. Are you wiggling your toe? You're not wiggling your toe. Wiggle your toe!"

Ahhh, the sounds of summer winding down.

Sure, there are the crickets and the cicadas. But the surest sign that summer is winding down is the time-honored tradition of buying new school shoes.

There's nothing like it. Kids move so quickly from fearing the measuring plate when they are toddlers to squirming around on it because it tickles. And it is the only time -- the only time -- my son is not given to standing on one foot. No matter how many times he is implored to "stand on this foot," his weight remains evenly distributed between both. That is the only time of year you will see that, because his common stance usually involves just one foot while one arm is wound behind his head and grabbing his chin -- just for fun.

And then there is the actual trying on of shoes. Children go mute at this point. At least mine do. All the way there I have been pelted with millions of questions, some pertaining to shoes, some pertaining to school, some lunch, and most pertaining to things entirely unrelated. However. Put a pair of new shoes on a child and all words leave them.

"How do they feel?"


"Do they feel tight?"

Silence and far away stare

"Can you walk in them a little?"

Slow reaction and then, gasp, something even stranger, even more rare happens . . . he actually walks around. Walks! No hops, no skips, no sideways steps just for added interest. Just walks. Forward facing. I just behold for a second, maybe two. It's such a beautiful yet rare thing to see a nine year old boy just walk. And he has to be coaxed and encouraged to go a little further and a little further -- this for the child who was 5 strides ahead of me in the parking lot regardless of my various threats and pleas. Finally, he returns.

"So? How do they feel?"

Silence, accompanied by a look down at the shoes.

"How do they feel?"

"Good." Hark! A response!

"Does the heel hurt?"


"Does your little toe hurt?"

"I don't think so."

"Does anything hurt?"

"I don't think."

Unconvinced, I assume the time-honored position: crouching over the newly-shoed foot, pressing incessantly, repeating, "Wiggle your toe. Are you wiggling your toe? Wiggle your toe!" I flashback to my father. I remember him fondly until I suddenly recall the sharp pain that shot through my toe when my father's thumb descended down, through the shoe pinning my toe to the sole of the shoe. "Wiggle your toe. Are you wiggling your toe? Wiggle your toe!"

Now I understand why all my right shoes had a dent just above the big toe.

If you see two kids with dents in the tops of their right shoes, you'll know they're mine. Or maybe they're yours, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved going for those new pair of white PF flyers for gym and my blue US Keds sneakers each year.

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