A Memory Reluctantly Shared
Oh, I have taken my part in some fearsome and
childish sprees. But I don’t really remember them –
Surely I was naughty and disobedient, surely I misbehaved –
Oh yes! Now I remember, out of the reserves of things
I would want to tuck away, and therefore did, swims up
a story from the deepest depths, never told another, until now.
My mother bought me some beautiful shoes,
beautiful black velvet shoes that I had coveted –
(shown off so elegantly in the shoe store window) –
beyond reason. So pretty, my mother agreed,
and bought them for me. They were not cheap
nor inexpensive. “You must save them for special occasions,”
she intoned, and solemnly I promised to do so.
“Would tonight’s church fellowship dinner count as special?
Special enough to wear my new snoes?” With an intimate smile
she answerd me, “Yes,” adding a conspiritorial wink. She
wanted almost as much as I to let them be seen. You must
understand – they were special shoes. Very special shoes.
Beautiful black velvet shoes.
My mother was in charge of the fellowhip dinner – something
she did frequently, for she was a well-abled organizer, a skill
she did not pass on to me. More in the way than helpful,
I was allowed to leave the kitchen and fellowship hall, after
having finished my chore of setting out the flatware and napkins
on the dining tables scattered about the large room.
Our church was in the northwoods of southeast Texas, a peaceful
spot, but also a location of swampy areas, which were unavoidable
in our below sea-level area of Texas. There were rivulets, fallen log
bridges, irresistable to use. I asked Mom if I could go outside
to walk around – along with my brothers and other friends. Giving
her consent, her parting words were “Watch out for your shoes!
Take care to keep them clean.” I lifted each foot up to admire them
once more, made my promise, and ran outside.
Of course my brothers were the true culprits in this adventure, as
I would have written in an account in my blood if I had been asked.
But present maturity now tells me that I alone was the responsible one.
I did not have to follow, but following my brothers was innate in me.
They were older and demonstrated for me the joys of added and wiser years.
It was a perfect evening, past mosquito time, for the most part, and
I was a tom-boy, outside as often as inside. I loved my life.
Of course you know by now that my shoes did not survive our walk.
Crossing a small stream, I slipped and fell into the muddy bog from
the old log that would have safely protected my shoes,
had I not been so clumsy. If you do not know, I will tell you
an important fact of life: mud and velvet are not compatible.
My brothers and friends laughed. I wept – long and loud.
I knew they were jealous of my beautiful black velvet shoes.
I had gotten my just desserts, they all teased.
Eventually, I knew that I must return to the church, but not before
spending a great deal of time trying to clean up my beautiful black
velvet shoes. Did I tell you they had sparkling rhinestone ribbons
at the instep? Did I tell you that they had been perfect beautiful black
velvet shoes? Nothing I or my “innocent” brothers did to paint a less
dismal picture of the situation that we could contrive to tell my mother,
as we were making our way back to the church dinner, would
help me avoid serious punishment.
With the slow and hesitant body-movements of some automaton, I
entered the building, filled with dread, tears still falling, salty
streams down my face I tried to wipe off my snotty, runny nose with
the sleeves of my muddy dress. I was the picture of the archetypal
mess. A sympathetic mother of a friend told me that I could let
my “beautiful-no-more” black velvet shoes, (with the rhinestone ribbons)
dry completely and then brush off the dried mud. They wold be good
as new, she assured (incorrectly). I prayed my mother would not notice me.
She did. I cannot now forget the look that transformed her face from
busy church-worker to angry mother. I knew what was in store.
The look was enough to tell me my fate was sealed. But it
would wait until we returned home, so prolonging the agony.
There is one thing still tucked away in my memory. I do not
remember what happened when we got home. One thing I
remember. I never again have owned or worn a pair of beautiful
black velvet shoes, with sparkling rhinestone ribbons.
That one pair was enough. . .