Friday, June 28, 2013
When I was an infant I had an accident that left one leg slightly shorter and I had a limp. When I was in the third grade our doctor thought it was time to address the problem and felt corrective shoes would be the answer. Corrective shoes, don’t those two words send shivers up and down your spine? Well, if that didn’t you should have seen the corrective shoe store. Dark, dank and I knew cobwebs were all over the shoeboxes. The place was filled with lots of old people - they had to be in their 30s - limping around with canes and crutches.
I told mother that I could feel my leg growing already and let’s go home. But mother had a coupon from the doctor and I knew she would use it regardless of any miracles of growth I thought were happening. My fate was sealed.
When we arrived home I did enjoy the attention of showing the new shoes, but not the looks on the faces of those I loved. They knew these were by far the ugliest shoes in the world. My older sister said since our parents loved her best they would never make her wear something that ugly.
You have to excuse my sister. When she wished for a baby sister she didn’t realize she needed to specify that I was to bring my own parents and baby furniture. Thought I would have enough sense to know that. And then, too, let’s face it I was cuter. Pigtails, bows, and I really looked good in my clothes.
The next morning I came in for breakfast and mother asked me where the new shoes were. I knew I was losing control of the situation when she asked for the box. To my horror she took that thing out, put the shoes on my feet, put my old school shoes in the box and said I wouldn’t need these any longer.
The thunderbolt hit me that I was expected to wear the ugliest shoes in the world out in public. What would this do to my cuteness? But I had a plan. I put my ever-faithful bunny bedroom slippers in my book bag and started for school. Our neighbors had thoughtfully planted a hedge 50 years before I was born and had never trimmed it. It was my very own safety deposit box. I had found a perfect place in the hedge to leave things.
You see my mother was convinced there was an impending blizzard about to hit Summerville without notice so I was dressed as a child for all seasons each day. Winter coat, raincoat, outgrown spring coat and a couple of sweaters thrown in for good measure. I know someone seeing me come down our driveway fashioned the Michelin Tire Man after me.
I would take off about four layers of clothes and leave them in my secret place to be retrieved coming home. This is what I did with the ugliest shoes in the world and put on my ever-faithful bunny bedroom slippers and started for school. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and my cuteness was still intact.
Somehow the news of my foot ware made it to school before I did. As I passed the principal’s office a hand reached out and I found myself in the one place no child wants to be. The principal had me sit down and then asked what was I wearing on my feet?
I explained that our dog had taken my shoes and buried them somewhere. As soon as we could find the gravesite I would be back to normal. I figured it would take until the end of school to find those shoes.
Even before I finished my story I saw the principal dialing a phone number and it didn’t take Einstein to know that I was a condemned person. I know how some one in the electric chair feels. I knew the leather straps would clap around my arms and feet and that upside down soup bowl you always see in movies would be coming down on my head.
My ever-faithful bunny bedroom slippers were trying very hard to get off my feet. Traitors. Looking out the window I saw mother rounding the corner and our poor old Plymouth trying valiantly to catch up with her. Clearly she started off in the car but knew she could get there faster by foot.
Mother retrieved me and my not very faithful bunny bedroom slippers never touched the school floor, the school steps or the school grounds on our way to the car. It was explained to me in no uncertain terms that if those shoes were gone I could forget Christmas and birthday presents, because that money would be used to pay for the uglist shoes in the world. I knew I was safe. No self-respecting robber would touch them, and the dog would be too embarrassed to be seen with them and I am pretty sure all those starving children in China, for whom I generously had eaten every green vegetable known to man, would pass them by. You know those starving children in China had never written me one thank you note for eating all those green vegetables so they didn’t have to.
Any way, the uglist shoes in the world were right where I left them. My not very faithful bunny bedroom slippers were confiscated and the worse happened. We returned to school with me thudding down the hall in shoes that weighed more than I did and mother left me at my classroom door. My classroom door, the door of doom.
Miss Norway, our teacher, was adored by all of us. We all became a class of over-achievers just for a smile from her. Would she ever let me have a special job again? I walked in and there she was, a cross between Snow White and Cinderella. She gave me a big smile and said, “As soon as Brenda hands out the spelling papers, we will begin.” Hand out the papers. One of the most treasured jobs in the class. Miss Norway let me be her pet all day and no one dared to say anything about the uglist shoes in the world.
By fourth grade everyone had accepted the fact that clearly I had the worst taste in shoes in all of Summerville, a reputation I am sure I still have. No one could out-ugly those shoes. Miss Norway was the first teacher to inspire me to want to be one also.
Mother lifted up my wedding dress to make sure I wasn’t wearing the not so faithful bunny bedroom slippers years later, and I am still waiting for a thank you note from all those starving children in China.
Brenda Loyd Allred grew up in Summerville when it was a very small town. She now lives at Franke at Seaside with her husband Les.