My Adventures with Red Shoes
By Carolyn Bowman
Some things in life are just more special to one person than to another and can almost border on obsessive. In my case it happens to be red shoes.
When I was 5, my mother took me shopping for shoes and got me a new pair of red sandals. They just happened to match a sundress that I was wearing that day. The day just got better when my daddy asked me to go fishing with him. He would put on his overalls and with fishing rod in hand he would head over to Hebron Lake. To go along with him and have Daddy all to myself was a great treat. I asked my mother to let me wear the new red sandals to the lake with Daddy, and she finally agreed. (Sometimes being the baby in the family helps.)
My new shoes were so much fun to wear. I felt like a princess. The fact that they were red and had buckles made me a very proud 5-year-old. I don't remember anything about the fishing. I just remember getting very tired and sleepy. And I remember the look on my mother's face when we got back to our house and she looked at my feet. The red shoes were gone!
While I was playing near the edge of the water, I had taken them off and put them on the river bank to keep them safe. When it was time to leave, both Daddy and I forgot about the shoes we had left by the lake. It was dark when we got home, so we waited until the next day to drive back to the lake to find them. By that time the shoes were gone. Some other little girl would wear my new red shoes. I cried so much, my eyes were the color of the lost sandals.
During my teenage years I worked at Stellen's, a dress shop in Statesville. The shop had ladies clothing but did not carry shoes. I worked on Saturdays and sometimes I would help take inventory of the store for the extra money. Occasionally on those Saturdays, on my lunch break, I would window shop. Making just 50 cents an hour meant I did more looking than shopping, but it was fun. One day I spotted a pair of beautiful red high-heeled shoes in the window display of Hines Shoes. This was a very upscale store, and the shoes were absolutely gorgeous. They were the second prettiest pair of red shoes I had ever seen. Of course I had to see if they had my size and try them on. I was just so in love with these shoes, and they felt great, so the Lay-a-way Plan was the way to go. My earnings did not allow me to pay $18 for a pair of shoes. Boy, did I ever scrimp and save to finally get those shoes paid for. It was certainly an effort but I was so proud. But when I put them on to wear to church they nearly killed my feet. I suffered through wearing them that time and on one or two other occasions. Then I was finished with them. My feet suffered too much agony. It seemed these red shoes and I did not fit together.
For years, red shoes were not on my list of favorites. I think I remembered the two bad experiences I had suffered through. So there was a lapse of red shoes in my closet until one day, while shopping for a casual party dress, I found a beautiful white sundress that just screamed for red shoes and jewelry. It was springtime in Greensboro, and the hunt began. I found ankle-strap sandals with a peek-a-boo toe and a little wedge heel. They were the best! I was in my mid-30s and thought they were just too cute and sexy. They became my favorite shoes for every occasion and were one of the best pair of dancing shoes I had ever owned. Well, needless to say, I finally had to send them to shoe heaven. They just wore out. But I did get the full benefit of owning a pair of red shoes.
One December many years later, I was on vacation with my son and his wife in Wilmington. We were doing some shopping, much to my son's discomfort, and all of a sudden I spotted the most comfortable looking clogs I had ever seen. And they were on sale. They were red — my son said orange-red — with some black trim. I tried them on, and my son starting laughing. "Mom, those are the ugliest shoes I have ever seen." I asked why they were so ugly and his response was "the color, Mom." Shocked, I asked what's wrong with the color? I turned to my daughter-in-law for an opinion. Females always stick together, right? Wrong! Bless her heart, she did her best to be kind, but I could tell she did not like the color either, and she kept trying to find my size in another color. But I was determined! They were my purchase of the day, and I walked out of the store happy and smiling. Not only a bargain, but comfortable and red as well. And what a treasure they turned out to be.
When we finished shopping, we decided to visit one of the local bars for an adult beverage. As we sat at the bar, the conversation among the three of us was all about those "ugly shoes." Okay, it was time for another viewpoint, so I took them out of the box and asked the bartender for his opinion. He did his best to try to like them. He had to agree with me finally that they were great shoes, but he said the color was too strange. However, a gentleman at the end of the bar proceeded to tell me that he thought they matched my personality. Is that good or bad? I am saying good, because he was smiling when he said it.
Years later, I still love those shoes. Every time I wore them at work, one of my co-workers threatened to call my son and tell him I was wearing those "dreadful red shoes." They thought wearing them affected my personality and made me act crazy. They just didn't know how much older folks like comfortable shoes at all times, crazy or not.
Not long ago I retired, so now I have the leisure time to find yet another perfect pair of red shoes. Wish me luck!