I remember the excitement I experienced as a child when my mother would bring me to the store to purchase a new pair of shoes.
There was something about the way the salesperson focused their attention on you.
They placed your foot into the metal shoe device outlining your foot, then slid it around to determine your proper size, scurried back to the storage room and returned with multiple rectangular shaped boxes.
For me I felt like royalty, Cinderella if you will. Where else could you sit and have an adult kneel before you, with a smile no less, and gently place a shoe onto your foot?
"How does that feel?" they would always ask.
The best part, however, was when it was time to leave. Upon checkout the clerk always asked,
"Do you want to wear them home?"
I would look pleadingly at my mom who always caved. I couldn't get my old worn out pair off fast enough, then gleefully turned them over in exchange for the unblemished, never-been-worn-by-anyone-else before footwear. I watched as my old sneakers disappeared into the box and with exhilaration put on my new shoes.
Walking out of the store I was convinced everyone was staring at me in my new kicks. At least I pretended they were.
When I was in high school money was tight. As I played three sports -- soccer, basketball and softball -- I needed three sets of athletic shoes appropriate for each season.
My mom somehow was always able to scrounge up enough money and came through when I needed cleats or basketball sneakers. I never wore name brand. I never sported Air Jordans, but what my mom could afford sufficed, and I got by.
During soccer pre-season, my sophomore year, an upperclassman was selling her highly desirable Adidas cleats at half price. They didn't fit her right and were my size. I immediately claimed them and prayed my mother would okay the transaction.
She wasn't pleased when I pulled them out of my bag as soon as I got home. Perhaps she thought I stole them? Once I explained to her how they came into my possession, she took pity on me, the eager look on my face must have been too much to bear, knowing how much I wanted to fit in. I never asked for anything but man I wanted those cleats.
I have no idea how she came up with the money, but she gave me an envelope with cash the next morning to cover the expense.
I loved those cleats. I wore them for the next three years. When they started to rip at the seams I closed them back together with white athletic tape. It didn't matter to me that my socks got soaked through, leaving my toes looking like prunes when there was any sort of moisture on the ground.
My coach was always harping on me to get a new pair, I played it off that I was superstitious about wearing them, which is kind of what happened as the years went on.
Mom made a lot of sacrifices for my brother and I so we could play sports. There were times the electric bill wasn't paid or we ate lots of pasta. I didn't appreciate it so much then, but I'm thankful every day to her for that now.
I'm also thankful we had strong booster clubs back then and larger athletic budgets. I never had to pay for a uniform or bus transportation. It was all taken care of for us.
I'm not sure I could afford to play sports in today's world based on my mother's shoestring budget.
Thankfully, I did play and got to experience the many benefits having a passion for athletics provides. Sports were and always will be a part of me.
And I still have those cleats. They traveled with me to college where they hung on my wall all four years as a reminder of where I came from.
They don't hang from my wall anymore, as they don't exactly go with the décor. Instead they have been retired to a bin filled with other sports memorabilia. I know where they are and if I think of it, I open the box, put on those old cleats and am transported back to a simpler time when a new pair of shoes, half-off no less, meant everything in the world.
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