I’m pretty particular about wearing the right shoes for any occasion. One thing I refuse to do is to wear heels high enough to compensate for my compact height. I realised when my oldest son grew to eye level that I’d be in trouble if I kept buying higher and higher shoes so as to tower over him. I’d need shoes of a scale that’s just plain dangerous, like the ones I saw an ABBA review band wearing. Those platform shoes had to be eight inches high, and I worried the whole performance about one of them falling off his glittery shoes and breaking a leg in front of the audience. In the case of my son, I feared I’d end up with orthopedic stilts in my old age; not my goal. He passed me up by a good nine inches, and I’m okay with that.
I travel rather a lot, and shoes can make or break a trip. Blisters are tiny things, but the agony they trigger is anything but tiny. On old cobblestones or scaling yet another lighthouse, I don’t want to wear wobbly shoes that invite a turned ankle. When I’m on the go, I opt for walking shoes with good soles; nonskid, cushy, and flexible. I want to be free to explore, without sore feet.
I bought new shoes for a recent cruise; pretty, comfortable, versitile; exactly what I needed for the trip. They, plus the ones on my feet, were the only shoes I brought. I chose a much smaller suitcase than Husband’s and he said, “If you need to put something in mine, just set it on the bed.” I left the pair of new shoes and an alarm clock with his stuff to pack.
In San Diego, I was baffled to find only one of my shoes and no clock. Who packs one shoe? Found it on the floor at home when we returned; guess it had slipped off the bed, but I still think he should have asked if I really intended to bring both shoes. Does he think I hop?
On a three-week Mediterranean cruise last year, I thought a lot about feet and shoes. In fact, that trip turned onto a thick book, one of my best sellers. We visited nine countries, over 17,000 miles, with nary a blister. I clambered up marble stone steps, walked down streets of Pompeii and Ephesus and old Roman structures I’d only seen in my history books, steps and paths and buildings worn down by three thousand years of people passing by, and I thought about shoes.
Think of it; centuries ago, long-forgotten workers laid the stones. As time passed and styles changed, many feet crossed that place. Bare feet of slaves, Roman sandals, tooled leather boots, soldiers’ shoes, laced sandals, ragged shoes on the feet of travelers from many nations, delicate high lace ups on the feet of fancy women, stiff boots worn by invading soldiers, soles of leather and wood and fur, medieval footwear, on to flip-flops and modern athletic footwear, even the preposterously high heels I saw on some silly tourists, across the centuries, on the same byways, scuffing the same stones, walking the same streets, mounting the same stones.
Think about what those stones could say if they would speak! The people that they’ve seen walking by; families across generations, government leaders, warriors, people whose names were destined to go down in history, slaves in shackles, societies in crushing poverty, others in great wealth, rulers and leaders bedecked in jewels and gold, peasants in rags. The battle of religions came in jolting waves as Christians, Catholics, Muslims, and smaller groups jostled back and forth for the same territory, conquerors, warriors, ordinary residents trying to take care of their family as families take care of their children all across the generations and all across the world—to walk where they walked was astonishing.
Now I think of the footsteps I make in my daily life. They’re usually invisible, unless I track through something unfortunate, but I leave my unseen mark, same as generations before me. Who will follow in my steps, generations form now? Am I going anywhere important? When others speak of the example I set, will they have anything kind to say?At the very least, I’ll be comfortable walking there, and I will have both shoes on.