Saturday, May 26, 2012

Old Shoes

I sat on the floor by M's closet inspecting his shoes.  He needs new ones.  His favorite pair of gym shoes ( or as M says, his "meeskers" because he can't quite say, "sneakers")  are getting tight.  The toes are hopelessly scuffed..  I turn the shoes over and notice the dirt caked into the sole; evidence of a little boy playing hard in the still-soft spring soil of our back yard.  Many times I have stood at the back door clapping the shoes together to loosen the dirt that found its way in the crevices.

I have deemed his favorite shoes to be "back yard" shoes.  They are not in any condition to be worn in public, but they are the perfect back yard shoe.  I insist M remove these shoes in the garage before he enters the house but he often forgets and walks through the house in them.  Too many times I have have crouched on hands and knees scrubbing ground-in dirt out of the carpet that had been tracked in by a certain little boy wearing these mud-caked shoes.

Yes, M will need new shoes.

Like many mothers, I gasp from sticker-shock at the price of boy's gym shoes.  I grumble at the thought of taking M to the store to be fit.  I will look at the new shoes in disbelief at how much M's foot has grown and will wish that his growing would slow just a little so that he may stay in a pair of shoes a bit longer.  I am like any other mother.

But unlike many mothers, I will often sit by the floor of my son's closet and hold a worn out , filthy shoe in my hand and I will feel my eyes becoming wet with tears of joy.

I stare at the shoe in my hand and remember a baby, who we were told, may never walk.

I remember M's physical therapist telling me that there was no need for M to wear shoes unless he was walking.  I bought shoes anyway.  Not many two or three year old boys are pushed in strollers without any shoes on.  I wasn't up for the line of questioning from critical old ladies in supermarkets asking, "Where are his shoes? Why doesn't he have any shoes on?".

I put shoes on his feet anyway.  Call me a rebel. 

The shoes covered the pristine white bottoms of his socks.  The perfect bright-white bottoms of the socks that never been walked in were like a harsh neon sign announcing my son's immobility to me daily.

When M outgrew those shoes, I could have put them back in the box and returned them to the store. There was no dirt in the treads.  No fraying of the laces.  No creases in the leather.  The shoes looked the same as the day they had come home from the store.

At two, M was fitted for leg braces.  He sat in the orthotist's office, his legs wrapped in plaster to get a cast  to make the mold for the hard plastic that would support his ankle and leg. The brace would consist of a hard plastic boot that his foot would slide into. Leather straps at the ankle and the knee would hold the braces in place. 

As he sat with his legs wrapped, we picked out a design for his new braces.  We picked the bright blue plastic with race cars printed on them.

The orthotist told M they would be so cool.
Silently I thought, no, this is far from being cool.

The braces had to be worn with shoes.  I bought M a pair of gym shoes in a wide-width and  a few sizes larger than his foot to accommodate the brace.  I ripped out the lining of the foot bed to create a larger space in the toe box for the brace to fit comfortably.  I slipped the shoes over the braces.  They looked awkwardly large and clownish on M's small feet.

I'd forgotten M's hat on this hot summer day.  This one was a random one my mom had.  It could not be more appropriate for M.
It was in those shoes that M first crawled.  He was nearly three.  Crawling wore down the leather of the toes of the shoes. I would rub my thumb across the worn leather and smile. I smiled for the gift of worn, scuffed shoes.  I smiled for the now-mobile boy who wore the shoes. 

We were told M may never walk.  I wish during those dark and fearful years that I could have whispered into my own ear that someday I would be sitting on the floor by M's closet holding old, worn out shoes in my hand.

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