As a mother, I am often surprised (and sometimes horrified) to discover which special moments and childhood memories stick in the minds of my grown children. I had occasion to revisit this issue when L’il Sis and I were recently shopping together. We had stopped (where else would I be?) in the shoe department of a local store. There, on the sale rack, in my size, was a gorgeous pair of purple suede pumps.
Ooh,” I rhapsodized as I stroked the supple suede, “I love these shoes. They remind me of a pair I had as a teenager. They were my secret, forbidden shoes.”
L’il Sis piped up, antenna on alert. “What do you mean, ‘forbidden shoes, Mom?Do I sense a juicy story here?”
“Don’t get your hopes up,”I admonished her. “It’s just that, when I was a teenager, about 17, my parents decided to teach me the value of money or some such nonsense and started giving me a weekly ‘clothes allowance’. They provided me with the basics, underwear, winter boots, that sort of thing, but I could choose and buy my dresses, party clothes, etc. At first I loved the idea. But I came to realize it was my downfall. One day I saw this pair of purple suede shoes, very much like this pair, with even higher heels. I WANTED those shoes! So I bought them. But I knew my parents would not approve. Too high of heel, too flashy, bordering on hooker shoes. Keep in mind, that was then. This is now– when every second pair of shoes makes you think bondage ritual. So I sneaked off one day and bought them, smuggling them into the house unbeknownst to them and stashed them at the back of my closet. ”
“So what then?” L’il Sis asked, curious about her mother’s bad side now coming to light. “Didn’t your mom find them when she cleaned your room?”
“That was another area of tension,” I added. “Since they were teaching me to be a responsible adult, I was also in charge of cleaning my room. To me, that involved piling up my clothes on the floor and closing the bedroom door to keep my parents from seeing the mess. I had no fears that they’d venture into that death trap for anything! So far you can see that those life lessons were’t going well.”
“I wish I’d had this ammo when I was a teen…would have saved us all a lot of grief,” L’il Sis mused.
“Yes, well… At any rate, the first time I planned to wear the shoes was to church, if you can believe it. I had to leave the house wearing another pair of shoes, carrying the jezebel numbers in a bag to don when I was out of my parents’ sight. I did that a few times but soon the hassle wore me down and I confessed my indiscretion to my mom. Nothing much happened — which was, I have to say, a great disappointment. So you can see that these bring back memories of ‘forbidden fruit’ for me.”
L’il Sis perked up. “Do you remember that pair of purple overalls I wanted when I was a kid? You refused to buy them, saying they were ugly, not practical, and you weren’t spending good (or bad) money on them? You made me buy a practical blue denim pair that I never wore. Oh, how I coveted those purple overalls…”
“Did I do that? I don’t recall that episode. But I do remember the fights I had with Gill over clothes. The only time we agreed was during the ‘track pant phase’ when she was still in public school. The other kids were all starting to demand designer clothes but all Gill wanted was cheap track suits from The Biway…which suited me just fine. I dressed all of you in the same thing…only difference was size. As I recall, Crazy D wasn’t thrilled with the maroon colored ones, but other than that he was good. When he graduated to Garanimals, we were all on Cloud Nine. Then Gill refused to be caught dead in anything ‘girlie’…and I almost killed her a number of times. It all came to a head when we had to go to a wedding. I insisted she had to wear a dress. She agreed only if it was plain. We found the plainest, boxiest style we could and, in retrospect, it WAS ugly. But compromise usually is.”
I stopped stroking the shoes and put them back on the rack, having indulged in nostalgia for long enough. Purple shoes, indeed! What was I thinking? I am glad to have passed that stage in my life, happy to be a mature woman of good taste, imbued with a sense of decorum and dignity.
And then I spied them: sneakers with YELLOW CANARIES all over them…in MY size! I was a goner. I bought them as L’il Sis looked on, shaking her head. “Well, at least you don’t have to hide them at the back of your closet now,” she chuckled. “‘Cause nobody here is judging.”
“Want to borrow them?” I taunted.
“Hell, yes! But they’re too small for me. Sigh…”
Purple shoes, overalls L’il Sis wanted as child, emotional implications of denial