A couple years ago I was visiting my husband’s family in North Carolina. At some point the big box of photos came out and we spent several pleasant hours poring over the old snapshots, and not a few slides, with much calling back and forth, “Is this Diana or Rachel?” “Where was this taken?” “Where was I when you all were here?”
It was entertaining for me because obviously I wasn’t anywhere near wherever ‘there’ was at the time. After a while we dug down into the good part: photos from Tras’s parents early years together, and even some of their own childhood photos.
As we looked there was one picture that I was completely struck by. As though it was just yesterday, I remember seeing it: every detail is seared into my brain.
OK, that’s a lie. Not every detail is seared. One detail is, shall we say, somewhat indelibly marked. And that is the shoes my lovely mother-in-law wore the night she was crowned Homecoming Queen in Vivian, Louisiana.
Mercy, I wish I had that photo to show you. Tras’s dad might have it scanned, but seeing as how he lives way up in God’s Country in the North Carolina mountains with no Internet access, I doubt he could email it to me anyway.
But there she was, circa 1947, on the arm of some football player carrying a bouquet of flowers, beaming, and sporting these killer peep-toe ankle strap power wedges.
“Look at her shoes!” I exclaimed, while everyone else was saying, “Aw, look how pretty Mom is!”
“Oh she is! She is!” I hastened to add, babbling something about her cute hair style and smart little jacket dress.
But you know my eyes wandered. Back to the shoes. Those darling vintage cuties that my very own mother-in-law got to wear when they were au courant, the very latest thing!
The picture-looking crowd moved on, but I kept flipping back to the Homecoming Queen, occasionally squeaking out, “man, those are cute shoes!” when finally Tras just looks at me and says, “Do you see anything BUT shoes??”
Dear God, I’ve been caught. Found out. Guilty as charged.
I place the blame squarely at the feet, if you will, of Dorothy. We women of a certain age, Boomers and post-Boomers, grew up watching, with religious-like fervor, the annual television airing of The Wizard of Oz. Plans that had been made were postponed. Schedules were completely rearranged. One HAD to be home watching the night that Dorothy was sucked up into the sky, out of black-and-white Kansas and into the glorious Land of Oz in living color — where a miracle occurred. No, the miracle wasn’t that she survived a cyclone ride. No, it wasn’t that she killed some witch and some shifty little people proclaimed her God Emperess of Dune.
No, the miracle was that she no longer had to trudge through life in those hideous, dusty, crappy-looking, rundown farm girl boot clodhopper things. She got new shoes!
And thus, an obsession was born.
I cannot believe that I’m the only person that can more or less enumerate most of the shoes I’ve ever owned in my life. But then again, maybe I am. I still think about a pair navy pumps I had in college, and a coral pair of huaraches I wore with everything, c. 1986. No, these aren’t that pair. Mine had darling little laces across the front which sounds weird, but believe me they were adorable.
I found myself telling a friend the other day about a photo taken of my cousins and me around 1975. I was around 12 or 13 and all my cousins were somewhere in the neighborhood of infant.
My dad was the eldest of nine, and there was quite an age gap that showed up around aunt #6. I’ve even got one aunt that’s five years younger than I am.
But the point is, many of these aunts were beginning their families when I was hitting adolescence, and the amusing photo featured me just plain covered up in kids. But, as I told Missy, I was wearing this great pair of stacked-heel loafers with an enormous block heel that made me feel exceedingly groovy, especially when worn with genuine pantyhose and a minidress.
And that’s what happened, too: I spent about half the conversation describing the shoes I had on when I was 12 and the other half detailing my dad’s family history.
These days I have found the Internet is quite adept at feeding my hunger for cute cheap (and by cheap I mean inexpensive not cheapo!) shoes. I’ve found tons of gorgeous sandals, wedges, clogs, pumps, sport shoes and even CROCS, God help me, for as much as 90% off retail.
I’ve got a horrifying weakness for cowboy boots … oh, hell let’s just be honest: boots in general. Gladiator sandals make me weak in the knees. Stiletto heels inspire the required naughtiness while ensuring that indeed, my legs look long.
I’m sure greater minds than mine have analyzed the female obsession with shoes, because if the Internet has taught us anything, it is that We Are Not Alone. My friends and family are well aware of my inclination to seek out all that is Shoe in any situation. Coworkers wander in to see what style UPS has brought.
Never mind that I’ve got clogs on my screen saver. Please ignore the photo of my Old Gringo boots that still graces my bulletin board. I just wish I could find a good vintage reproduction of the fabu strappy sandals that were once worn by a post-war Homecoming Queen.