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Monday, March 16, 2015

Spectator sport


I can see my late mother's spectator pumps jauntily lined up on the floor of her closet alongside her more casual spring shoes: the wedged espadrilles, the red, white, and blue Dr. Sholls with their wooden soles, the tired looking huaraches that sprang to life on my mother's feet. Her winter shoes, dark brown, black, oxblood, stayed on the floor at the far side, just under the window, so that one had to pass the pretties to get to the sensibles. My mother's clothes moved with the seasons, with those not in use kept in the closet on the attic landing, but her shoes stayed in her closet, perfect for trying on when she was in the shower.

I have the most vivid memory of a Sunday morning when I was small, being on my father's side of the closet choosing which neckwear he should wear to church. I heard a rustle behind me and turned to find my mother in stockings and her lace-edged full slip slipping on the pumps. My heart leapt, because of all my mother's shoes, those spectator pumps were my favorites, bar none.

I quickly picked out a tie to lay across my father's side of the bed, then stood there and watched my mother wriggle her dress over her head. When she looked up and caught me, she smiled and said, "Come, baby girl. Zip me up."

I stood on the little footstool and did so, careful not to catch any of the stray wisps that fell out of her fingers as she held her hair up and away. "Don't forget the hook," she said, and I bit my lip and concentrated on fastening that as well.

When I was done, she smoothed the dress, turning sideways in the mirror, and grabbed her pearl earrings off the little dish on her bedside table. She put them in and sprayed perfume on herself, and at some point during that process, she made eye contact with me in the mirror. "Go get dressed, sleepyhead," she said. "Chop chop."

I remember stopping in the doorway for one last look at my mother in her dress and spectator pumps, shimmer on her ears, and knowing for a fact that I had the most beautiful mother in the world and also the most kindhearted, because she loved me even with my father's nose, my knobby knees, and freckles everywhere.

Today at Rugged Wearhouse, I saw the shoes shown above, and while they were not the shape or style of my mother's spectators, they were reminiscent enough in coloration to make me exhale happily and so they came home to sit on my own closet floor.
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