Monday, February 13, 2012

Shoes that Fit and Shoes Fit for Lady Gaga II

While this "slice of my life" was originally published last spring, it's a piece I have been thinking about  even working on (revising, editing) since that time!  Plus, it's really great story for Valentine's Day because it is a lot about someone I love, and   a little about shopping and shoes!  Here is my story!

I bought my mother a pair of sneakers. This may not seem like such a groundbreaking thing; however, it is symbolic of the gradual change of power that happens in all successful parent-child and student -teacher  interactions. On the surface seem that I am taking a small "slice" of life and making a "big deal" about it; so let me give you a little background so you can understand the significanct of the slice of my life.   

From as far back as I can remember, my mother loved to dress up in outfits that accentuated her best features!  She wore dresses that made people notice!  She had a thick faux fur coat (that we called her teddy bear coat) that (at least from a distance) looked real.  No matter what else she wore, my mother was always most proud of her shoes.  She wore incredibly beautiful high-heeled shoes when she went out to any occasion that might remotely justify their wear!  I clearly remember the gold strappy ones that she wore "out" with my dad and the black patent leather one that were her Sunday best!

My mom really was pretty aware of style even though we lived in a trailer (or as she called it, her mobile home) and there really was not much extra money at the end of the week! Shoes were, however, important to my mother and thus once a year, just before the first day of school, she took me and my siblings to the local Stride Rite store for sturdy and responsible shoes. It was a big outing and we KNEW we would be wearing those leather shoes for the whole school year. The pair I remember most was purchased just before I started 5th grade.  I was already a little tall compared to my peers and to make matters worse, the salesman at the store confirmed that my feet were already as big as my mother's feet!  There were not a lot of choices that year that would fit my growing tootsies so I ended up with a pair of brown and beige saddle shoes that were hideously out of style (in my 10 year old mind).  Even worse, in my opinion, they made my already size 8 feet look like they were size 9! I didn't lose much time scuffing those things on the playground and celebrated the day, a few months later, when the same salesman confirmed that my feet had grown so much, I really should not wear them anymore!  Back in those days, I did not realize the financial sacrifice my parents madeto make sure we had safe and sturdy shoes.  Truth be told, I took the acts of running and walking for granted. Oh the innocence of youth......

So fast forward to the story you really wanted to read about, my catchy lead: Shoes Fit for Lady Gaga.  

These days, my mother's social life is significantly different.  She goes "out" to doctor appointments and sometimes there is physical therapy. But, there are few parties and even fewer dress up occasions.  Even attending church is only for special occasions, weddings and funeral.  Mom walks around her local A&P and CVS, about once a week, weather permitting, slowly and hesitantly on feet that are filled with painful arthritis. Thus, mom has retired her heels (although she does keep a pair or two high on the shelf in her closet!) 

As this story was unfolding, even my mom's trusty old Keds, while still stylish, were so painful the she could hardly walk to her car! So, on one of my "days off" from school. she agreed to try on shoes at her favorite shoe store, Hellers, where they still wait on you like "in the old days." The goal was to find a pair of comfortable and light weight shoes that would not hurt her feet.

We headed off with the intent to shop in the "sensible" section of the store.  We browsed through the tables with sturdy "faux leather" shoes, brown and black ones with laces that held them securing in place.  We really did see a few that looked like the MIGHT do the trick - provide comfort and support.

However, the reality was quite different.  It took a quite a while to go through some of the top 20 choices.  Many were so uncomfortable that she did not even try to stand in them.  She was aghast at the prices of some of the soft leather shoes.  Their price tags exceeded the cost of my first car.  There were some gorgeous sneakers with delicate navy trim....but none of them fit just right.

Early on in the hunt, the salesman brought out a box of pink sneakers - yes pink all over!  "I could NEVER wear those," she invoked as they were pulled from the box.  And yet, after many failed attempts at finding comfortable shoes, and with the urging of the salesman AND me, she tried them on.  They were soft and light and lovely to her feet...and well constructed too!  They were, perhaps, more like those old saddle shoes of my your ..the best choice - for now.

As she made her way around the store trying out these new shoes, whose cost did exceed her first and second cards, my mother looked wistfully at a group of "young ladies" trying on shoes that would evoke a smile from even Lady Gaga. Dressed in tight jeans and prancing around on VERY high heals, they were giggling at the potential these very high heels represented. 

As she passed the giggling young ladies, my mother strongly encouraged those girls to take those shoes home noting," Wear them now, while you can!"  She smiled and added, "I wore some pretty outlandish shoes in my time too!"  The girls giggled as they attempted to balance on heels that few people would find comfortable!  I don't think they had a clue about the significance of her words, but they did politely nod and added that her sneakers looked really comfortable!  . 

We left a few minutes later with the new pink sneakers on her feet.  My mother has already assured me she will NOT be wearing these PINK sneakers with red sweaters and will need to get a new pink turtleneck.  I think I remember some vague promise like that as I left the store wearing those brown saddle shoes long ago.  In spite of her complaints and protests, she did have a bit of smile on her face as we left the store.  These new shoes fit her perfectly and are just what she needs - right now.

And then, partly because I felt sorry for the sales clerk but mostly because I have been hearing my mother's messages for decades, I too bought a pair of shoes. My new shoes will be the rage for Lady Gaga in about 30 years, I suspect, because they are flat; yet, they are MUCH fancier than the sturdy and functional ones I normally buy. I guess I really have been listening to my mother.  Yes, I do need shoes that fit, but I also need to wear more "glitzy" flats now,while I can!

As I reflected on the saga of the shoes that fit and the shoes that are fit for Lady Gaga, I really do see a connection to life and to teaching kids to be writers. We are (even when we don't realize it) scaffolding others through our comments and actions.  We provide support for our students when we model the strategies of "sturdy" writers. We are serving as examples and role models as they explore and try to represent the styles of writing that they see in their peers and in popular culture (like Twitter or graphic novels). As our student become more proficient, we, like parents, gradually let go of some of the control and encourage them to write like the writers they are. 
There just might even be a message or two in my afternoon at the shoe store.  Perhaps we should let our students try new out strategies, outlandish techniques, and diverse writing genres while they can and while they have the time. Let them explore monsters and poetry and tall tales because our students can. There will be many years when they will have to write sensibly!

No comments: