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Discovering and Outgrowing My Mother's Shoes

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How many of you used to play in your mother's shoes? Don't be ashamed. Go ahead. Raise your hands. Smile at the memory. Did you have a favorite pair? Do you remember when your foot finally fit them perfectly? Do you remember when your foot outgrew them?

I started playing in my mother's shoes at an early age. It was before I started kindergarten. I was between 3 and 4 years old. I didn't know why I loved her shoes so much (hindsight is 20/20). They were better than any of my toys. Kind of like when a child has more fun playing with the box than with what was inside it. Anyway, my mom had a fantastic pair of white patent leather platform sandals with a bow atop the toe-box. I'm going to call them patent leather, but my guess is they were really white vinyl, maybe even plastic. They were my favorite pair. I loved those shoes. My foot barely stayed inside the peep-toe opening. Instead of peep-toe it was more like peep-foot. I would play in them as often as I could before getting caught and told to put them away. It's funny how 40 years later I can still see that pair of shoes clearly in my memory.

As I continued to grow into myself (in secret of course), I grew into my mom's shoes. Between 6th and 7th grade they fit me perfectly. By then, the white patent leather platform sandals of my childhood were gone as the 70s had given way to the 80s. My new favorite pair became the metallic fuchsia strappy sandals with the 3" heel she bought to match a dusty rose-colored dress that had a metallic fuchsia thread slightly wider than a pinstripe running vertically through it. It was a fantastic combination. And yes, I also tried on the dress. It fit briefly, but mostly for me it was about the shoes.

I lived for the moments when I would be left alone at our house while everyone else was out grocery shopping or running other errands. I would run to my mom's closet the minute the car was out of sight and put on those fuchsia heels. I loved them. I would wrap a towel around my waist -- much like a man might do post shower -- to create a skirt. Sometimes it was a short skirt and sometimes, if I was needing to feel glamorous, I would tuck one towel into the front of my underwear's waistband and another into the back so that I had a long skirt with a slit up each leg. I was a vision in terrycloth (with hints of Little Edie Beale I would later become aware of). Sometimes I'd put on a robe, pulling the two sides together over my left leg instead of overlapping them in the center so that there would be a split from just below the knee all the way up my thigh. My idea of sexy. As I look back on it, that robe was kind of my version of Diane von Furstenberg's wrap dress. Of course at that time I didn't know who DVF was or anything about her wrap dress. Sometimes I did try wearing my mom's skirts or dresses, but getting them off quickly when I heard the car pull into the driveway proved less than advantageous. And when you consider I had to get the shoes off -- putting them back in the closet, and (for my own sanity) making it look like they'd never been moved -- ripping off a towel skirt was much easier.

I loved walking around our house in my mom's shoes. The way I carried myself changed. It was difficult at first. I was clumsy. But I kept practicing. I figured out how to actually walk in the heels. Over time I got pretty good at it. That muscle memory came in handy the first time I performed in drag during a college cabaret night.

Then the day came when my feet no longer fit into my mom's shoes. That was a sad day. It was before the start of my 7th grade year. I was a growing boy, and I had grown my way right out of those fuchsia heels. My feet had grown too wide to fit inside the toe-box and so long they hung off the back. Like Cinderella's step sisters I tried and tried to force my feet back into my mom's shoes to no avail. It was over. Our time together had come and gone. I was disappointed left only with the memory of their brief perfect fit. Sure I could still wear my towel skirts and robe dress, but I'd lost my favorite accessory -- the shoes. From Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City to Lola in Kinky Boots we know it's all about the shoes.

I don't own a pair of heels at this time, but I have owned a couple of pairs in my adult life that I loved. I'm not sure, however, that I loved either pair as much as I loved the two pairs that belonged to my mom. It's kind of hard to compete with the memory of how much joy I got from her white patent leather platform sandals or how fabulous I felt wearing her metallic fuchsia 3" heels.

This walk down memory lane brought the kind of smile to my face that only nostalgia can bring. I tell my mom how much I love and appreciate her all the time, but I've never thanked her for having such awesome taste in shoes... at least twice.