No stranger to comfortable shoes, one peek in my closet will reveal a significant selection of Birkenstocks, Danskos, Naots, Merrills and Clarks. I have spent good money on good shoes because I can’t stand it if my feet hurt. I might be a shoe-a-holic, but I am not a slave to shoe fashion in lieu of comfort. My old shoes are rarely thrown out unless they are decimated, and so the collection is rather remarkable in size, but mostly outdated. When I am not wearing the most comfortable of shoes, I am barefoot.
Comments from my family about my assortment of un-hip shoes range from “I wouldn’t be caught dead in those” (my sister – referring to a pair of Bjorn sandals) to “Ugh, you wear those ‘Air Jesus’ shoes!” (accompanied by laughter from my brother, about my well-worn, eighteen year old pair of original style Birks), and a variety of smirks and eye-rolls from sisters and in-laws. Anything with much of a heel has not been worn in years -even with my penchant/addiction to cowgirl boots, the field has been narrowed down to the requirement that they need to be extremely comfortable and very supportive on the arches.
A few days ago my sisters, niece and I took a long road trip out-of-state to visit our ninety-year-old Aunt M. in the assisted living facility where she resides. She is bent and frail, feisty and intelligent, and not the nicest or happiest person you would want to know…the minute one of us would leave the room to attend to something, she would say something catty about the absent person. But, well, she’s ninety after all (although she’s always been that way, I guess ninety cuts you a lot of slack) and the last living relative of that generation, and so we sighed and accommodated. She wanted shoes and some new clothing – and mostly to escape from the very clean, well-kept and quite lovely facility she lives in (“Get me out of this prison for a few hours”). So we took her out to breakfast and then to the local outlet center.
Maneuvering her in and out of the car was a trip in itself. Although she can get going and work up some significant speed with her walker once you get her standing, first you need to get her out of the chair and on her feet. She’s very bent over, so she’s sort of looking down instead of forward. Then she crashes into walls and other objects while trying to steer, before becoming exhausted, at which point she stops cold and demands to be helped back into a chair.
After getting her out of the facility, into my car, in and out of the restaurant and finally to the outlet center, we located one of those borrowed wheelchairs from the center office for her. That made things a lot easier. The first place she wanted to go was the Easy Spirit shoe store. She was wearing a pair of Easy Spirit sneaker slip-ons, and she liked them so much that she wanted another pair.
I have never owned a pair of Easy Spirit shoes. I have a friend who has been wearing their very nice looking athletic sneakers for many, many years, even before we became “middle-aged” (or, OK, past middle-aged) and swears by their comfort, but for some reason I never considered them. I guess I figured they were for “old people”. Being in that store with Aunt M. was a reinforcement of that opinion.
There was a buy-one-get-the-second-pair-for-half-price sale going on, so we got her two pairs of shoes. She was very particular about what colors we got her, no pushing your opinions and tastes on Aunt M., that was for sure! She didn’t like coral but she thought the lavender slip-ons were nice. We got her both lavender and blue pairs.
While one sister catered to her, the rest of us killed some time wandering around the store looking at what Easy Spirit had to offer.
Most of what I saw did not appeal to me….some of it screamed “Comfortable Old People Shoes”…..but suddenly I noticed some cute open-sided gray suede sneaker-shoes….on sale. And then my sister found the cutest pair of blue and white sneakers! And they had purple ones too! Suddenly, there we were, trying on these shoes - comfortable, foot massaging, supportive shoes. My teenaged fashionista niece was adding her opinions on what looked good and what didn’t. The next thing you know, we were standing up at the register getting our buy-one-get-the-second-pair-for-half-price old people, comfortable shoes.
My sister turned to me. “I think we have crossed some sort of line here” she said. We both glanced over in the direction of Aunt M.
I sighed. I guess maybe we have.