Hey . . . Here's an essay I wrote several years back. I thought you guys might enjoy it.
They had to be the ugliest pair of shoes I'd ever seen. I reached down into the box and picked one up. Black and brown speckled, pointed toes, flat squatty heels, and, to add insult to injury, they had a black spandex strap across the top. I turned it over in my hand and stared at the gold label telling me this item was genuine leather. Mother had actually paid good money for these.
I found the letter beneath the other surprises, candy for my husband and a stuffed valentine bear for my year old daughter. The sweet-scented candles, like the shoes, were marked for me. The letter explained that she'd bought the shoes for herself, but found them too narrow and hoped I'd like them. I felt a little better to learn they hadn't been chosen for me.
I placed the shoes on the kitchen island. As I finished dinner that night I wondered what I would tell her when I made my weekly long distance call. I debated over several polite thank-you-I-love-thems, then I decided to go with my first choice. "Yes, they're great. But they're the kind of shoes that have to be worn with that perfect outfit." It sounded good, and it was true, even though I would never look for that outfit. If I ever ran across it, it would be my mother's style, which meant I'd never be caught dead in it. Of course I wouldn't tell her that. Not that I hadn't told her this, or worse in my earlier years. We had never seen eye to eye on styles or much else.
My husband walked in from work and the first thing he saw were those shoes. He picked them up, shook his head and laughed. It was a subtle reminder that at least we had the same taste, but then it also reminded me that he didn't appreciate my mother's taste. "I hope you didn't pay good money for these," he said.
I frowned at him. "Mother sent them."
"Oh." His mouth clamped shut and he knew better than to say another word. I knew he couldn't say a thing I hadn't already thought and frankly he liked my mother. Yet as far as I was concerned, he enjoyed laughing a little too much at the idiosyncrasies that made her "her".
"I know a lot of people who admire her eccentricities," I told this to my husband in her defense. And in reality it was true. Most of the time no one other than myself and my husband seemed to notice her choice of clothes or trendy hair styles. And I often wondered if he would have noticed if I hadn't pointed them out. But then again, he had reacted to the shoes. That evening I took them up to my closet where I figured they'd be forgotten in a matter of days.
Imagine our surprise the next morning when we found our daughter doing one of her many cute firsts. She'd gotten in our closet and was attempting to walk in grown-up shoes. I'm sure I don't have to tell you which pair she'd chosen.
We both brushed it off as coincidence. In a few days I offered her my old pair of bright red pumps, but she would have nothing to do with them.
For months I would drag the shoes from her toy box back to my closet, where she would eventually find them. The years passed and Mother sent and brought gifts regularly, many of them shoes. I would shake my head, and my daughter would shriek in delight. In time we grew to accept that our daughter shared a common thread with her grandmother.
It was just a few weeks ago when I was going through my closet getting ready for a big garage sale. The shoes my daughter had finally lost interest in were tucked way in the back. I tossed them in the bag of "definite goes", but then I stopped and retrieved them.
Oddly they no longer seemed so ugly. Yes, they were different and still not my style, yet it wasn't just how they looked or didn't look, or the memory of my daughter stumbling around playing grown-up that affected me. They meant something. They symbolized my mother and my daughter; they stood for the differences in the three of us. They stood for our love and the bond that would always unite us. They were like a memorial of our acceptance of each other as individuals.
I put the shoes back on the shelf and I knew I would never part with them. I wondered then and I wonder now if someday my daughter will see me as an eccentric old lady who has a strange sense of taste. Or will I always be shaking my head at her choice of styles? I can only hope that she will tolerate, accept and admire our differences as I have grown to do with my mother. And who knows, maybe one day I'll find that perfect outfit to match those shoes. If I'm lucky, it will be in my daughter's size.