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As regular readers will know, the subject of footwear is a contentious one between Gill and myself. She rails against my love of pretty, pointy-toed, high-heeled shoes that have resulted in my current bunion-ridden, calloused, crooked-toed appendages that, when exposed to the world, resemble some dinosaur creature’s appendage from long ago. They are a sight capable of scaring small children…or large adults. I finally, as a senior, acknowledge my folly…and yet still wear, whenever possible, pretty, impractical shoes. I trace my love of shoes back to my childhood when I was forced to wear ugly, sturdy Oxford  brogues.I hated them with a passion.Those shoes  stunted my psychological growth.My fancy shoes, worn in rebellion after the brogues were tossed, stunted my feet.What price beauty?

I do, however, accept the reality that I now must wear orthotics to correct for my fallen arches and I am normally found wearing sturdy running shoes. It is only for social engagements that I dare don my pretty shoes…or my ‘ten minute shoes’, as I refer to them. Great for sitting and looking fetching, not so great for walking.

Given that questionable history, you’d think I’d be willing, even eager, to cut Gill some slack with respect to her footwear. Sadly, no.

Now I realize that she wears the footwear she does mainly because of her arthritis. Her back hurts, her hips hurt, her knees hurt, her neck hurts…sometimes even her teeth hurt. So I understand that she can’t wear fancy high heels or flimsy strappy sandals. She loves Birkenstocks and wears them in their many formulations: clogs, sandals, dull brown leather ones, jaunty red ones. They are her around-the-house footwear, her go-to-work shoes, her beach shoes, her hiking shoes, her coping with winter weather shoes. She also has a pair of very old cowboy boots that have been re-soled so many times they probably cringe every time she walks past the shoe repair shop, anticipating the painful procedure they will soon have to undergo again…like a patient dreading the hospital where they had their latest operation.

When Gill arrived here for the holidays, she was looking forward to walking in the pristine snow…something she misses in England. It was beautiful and there was a lot of it. “Perfect!” she announced. “I’m going for a walk on the paths.”

With that, she put on her coat, toque, mitts, and prepared to march out the door.

“But, surely you’re not walking in THOSE!” I exclaimed, pointing at her Birkenclogs. “The snow is too deep! You’ll freeze your feet and you’ll slide all over the place. They’re not safe! Surely we have a pair of boots somewhere that you could use.”

You’d think that, since the kids have all moved out, my mud room would be empty of the piles of boots, shoes, and outdoor gear that was featured when they were in residence. You would be wrong. Gill was puzzled when she saw the wide range of footwear in the room.”Who do these belong to? I thought the other two moved out.”

“Well, they like to keep a few extra pairs here just in case…but handy for occasions such as this.”

“Ma! How many times do I have to tell you: my feet are much bigger than yours and even L’il Sis’s boots won’t fit me. Crazy D’s are way too big. These are fine. I walk everywhere in them. Besides, I put an extra pair of wool socks on. They’ll be great.”

And, damn her, she made it back in one piece! There is no way in hell that Birkenclogs are suitable winter footwear…and yet, she stood in front of me, taunting me with the fact that she just proved me wrong.

Then came the day she had to dress as a ‘professional’ for a meeting with her publisher. Out came the cowboy boots. It was -15 degrees C. When I collected her from the train station that evening, she was shivering. “Brr…crank up the heat, Ma! I had to walk and it was SO cold. My feet are frozen. And I even wore wool socks! I’m not used to this climate anymore.”

“Well, I was going to say…”

“Don’t even start with me…you with your deformed feet and your pointy-toed cripplers! Let’s just call it a draw, shall we? At least I have a reason for my poor choice of footwear: I don’t live here anymore and I have arthritis.You may be The Mom but your ugly, malformed feet have just ceded you any authority you might have had on what constitutes suitable footwear.”

Check and mate.